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F.X     I.IRT?TS 





Stanford  University  Libraries        H 








fflg-  XXX.     mg— gr 

jan      iiL~Tir 




iFrom  tift  Sbitlfofg  Uebttfeii  (ETeit 




EDITORS  OF  "poet-lore" 




COFYRIGHT,  1897, 

By  T.  Y.  CROWELL  &  CO, 

NorfDooTi  ^ress 

J.  8.  CuihiiiK  ft  Co.  -  Berwick  k  Smitk 
Norwood  M MS.  U.8.A. 



Biographical  Introduction xi 

Introductory  Essay xxv 

Bibliography        .        .        .       .       c        .       .       ,       •       •       •  xlv 


I.    The  Ring  and  the  Book i 

II.    Half-Rome 34 

III.  The  Other  Half-Rome 70 

IV.  Tertium  Quid 108 

V.    Count  Guido  Franceschini .145 

VI.    Giuseppe  Caponsacchi 191 

VII.    PoMPiLiA 239 

VIII.    Dominus  Hyacinthus   de  Archangelis,  pauperum    procu- 
rator       280 

IX.    Juris  Doctor  Johannes-Baptista  Bottinius,  Fisci  et  Rev. 

Cam.  Apostol.  Advocatus 322 

X.    The  Pope 359 

XI.    Guido 407 

XII.    The  Book  and  the  Ring 461 

Appendix 483 

•  • 



"A  peep  through  my  window,  if  folk  prefer; 

But,  please  you,  no  foot  over  threshold  of  mine."  — '  House.* 

WHEN  some  depredator  of  the  familiar  declared  that  "Only  in 
Italy  is  there  any  romance  left,"  Browning  replied,  "Ah!  well,  I 
should  like  to  include  poor  old  Camberwell,"  and  "  poor  old  Camber- 
well,"  where  Robert  Browning  was  born,  May  7,  181 2,  offered  no  meagre 
nurture  for  the  fancy  of  a  child  gifted  with  the  ardor  that  greatens  and 
glorifies  the  real. 

Nature  still  garlanded  this  suburban  part  of  London  with  bowery 
spaces  breathing  peace.  The  view  of  the  region  from  Heme  Hill  over 
softly  wreathing  distances  of  domestic  wood  "  was,  before  railroads  came, 
entirely  lovely,"  Ruskin  says.  He  writes  of  "  the  tops  of  twenty  square 
miles  of  politely  inhabited  groves,"  of  bloom  of  lilac  and  laburnum  and  of 
almond-blossoms,  intermingling  suggestions  of  the  wealth  of  fruit-trees  in 
enclosed  gardens,  and  companioning  all  this  with  the  fiirze,  birch,  oak, 
and  bramble  of  the  Norwood  hills,  and  the  open  fields  of  Dulwich  "  ani- 
mate with  cow  and  buttercup." 

Nature  was  ready  to  beckon  the  young  poet  to  dreams  and  solitude, 
and,  too  close  to  need  to  vie  with  her,  the  great  city  was  at  hand  to 
make  her  power  intimately  felt.  From  a  height  crowned  by  three  large 
elms.  Browning,  as  a  lad,  used  to  enjoy  the  picturesqueness  of  his  "poor 
old  Camberwell."  Its  heart  of  romance  was  centred  for  him  in  the 
sight  of  the  vast  city  lying  to  the  westward.  His  memory  singled  out 
one  such  visit  as  peculiarly  significant,  the  first  one  on  which  he  beheld 
teeming  London  by  night,  and  heard  the  vague  confusion  of  her  collec- 
tive voice  beneath  the  silence  of  the  stars. 

Within  the  home  into  which  he  was  bom,  equally  well-poised  condi- 
tions befriended  him,  fostering  the  development  of  his  emotional  and 
intellectual  nature.  His  mother  was  once  described  by  Carlyle  as  "  the 
tme  type  of  a  Scottish  gentlewoman."    Browning  himself  used  to  say  of 


ler  "  with  tremulous  emotion,"  according  to  his  friend,  Mrs.  Orr,  "  she 
iras  a  divine  woman."  Her  gentle,  deeply  religious  nature  evidently 
lerived  its  evangelical  tendency  from  her  mother,  also  Scotch ;  while 
rom  her  father,  William  Wiedemann,  ship-owner,  a  Hamburg  German, 
ettled  in  Dundee,  who  was  an  accomplished  draughtsman  and  musician, 
he  seems  to  have  derived  the  liking  and  facility  for  music  which  was 
>ne  of  the  characteristic  bents  of  the  poet.  To  this  Scotch-German 
lescent  on  his  mother^s  side  the  metaphysical  quality  of  his  mind  is 
ccounlable,  concerning  which  Harriet  Martineau  is  recorded  as  having 
aid  to  him, "  You  have  no  need  to  study  German  thought,  your  mind  is 
Jerman  enough  already."  The  peculiarly  tender  aflfection  his  mother 
ailed  out  in  him  seems  to  have  been  at  once  proof  and  enhancement  of 
he  mystical,  emotional,  and  impressible  side  of  his  disposition;  and 
hese  traits  were  founded  on  an  organic  inheritance  from  her  of  "  what 
le  called  a  nervousness  of  nature,"  which  his  father  could  not  have 
lequeathed  to  him. 

Exuberant  vitality,  insatiable  intellectual  curiosity  and  capacity,  the 
haracteristics  of  Robert  Browning  the  elder,  were  the  heritage  of  his 
on,  but  raised  in  him  to  a  more  effective  power,  through  their  transmu* 
ation,  perhaps,  as  Mrs.  Orr  suggests,  in  the  more  sensitive  physique 
nd  temperament  inherited  from  his  mother.  Of  his  father.  Browning 
nrote  that  his  "  Powers,  natural  and  acquired,  would  easily  have  made 
lim  a  notable  man,  had  he  known  what  vanity  or  ambition  or  the  love 
f  money  or  social  influence  meant."  He  had  refused  to  stay  on  his 
ciother's  sugar  plantation  at  St.  Kitt's  in  the  West  Indies,  losing  the 
3rtune  to  be  achieved  there,  because  of  his  detestation  of  slavery,  and  the 
ffice  he  filled  in  the  Bank  of  England  was  never  close  enough  to  his 
iking  to  induce  him  to  rise  in  it  so  far  as  his  father  had  risen ;  but  it 
nabled  him  to  indulge  his  tastes  for  many  books  and  a  few  pictures 
nd  to  secure  for  his  son,  as  that  son  said  shortly  before  his  death,  "  all 
he  ease  and  comfort  that  a  literary  man  needs  to  do  good  work." 

One  of  the  poet's  own  early  recollections  gives  a  picture  that  epito- 
tiizes  the  joint  influence  of  his  happy  parentage.  It  depicts  the  child 
'  sitting  on  his  father's  knees  in  the  library,  listening  with  enthralled 
ttention  to  the  tale  of  Troy,  with  marvellous  illustrations  among  the 
;lowing  coals  in  the  fireplace;  with,  below  all,  the  vaguely  heard 
ccompaniment  —  from  the  neighboring  room  where  Mrs.  Browning  sat 
in  her  chief  happiness,  her  hour  of  darkness  and  solitude  and  music '  — 
►f  a  wild  Gaelic  lament." 

His  father's  brain  was  itself  a  library,  stored  with  literary  antiquities, 
»rhich,  his  son  used  to  say,  made  him  seem  to  have  known  Paracelsus, 
Taustus,  and  even  Talmudic  personages  personally,  and  his  heart  was 


so  young  and  buoyant  that  his  lore,  instead  of  isolating  him  from  his 
boy  and  girl,  made  him  their  most  entertaining  companion. 

It  is  not  surprising  that  under  such  circumstances  the  ordinary  school- 
ing was  too  puerile  for  young  Robertas  wide-awake  wits.  He  was  so 
energetic  in  mind  and  body  that  he  was  sent  to  a  day-school  near  by 
for  peace^  sake  at  an  early  age,  and  sent  back  again,  for  peace^  sake,  too, 

because  his  proficiency  made  the  mammas  complain  that  Mrs. was 

neglecting  her  other  pupils  for  the  sake  of  bringing  on  Master  Browning. 
Home  teaching  followed.  Also  home  amusement,  which  included  the 
keeping  of  a  variety  of  pets,  —  owls,  monkeys,  magpies,  hedgehogs,  an 
eagle,  a  toad,  and  two  snakes.  If  any  further  proof  is  needed  of  the 
hospitable  warmth  of  his  youthfid  heart,  an  entry  in  his  diary  at  the 
age  of  seven  or  eight  may  serve  —  "  married  two  wives  this  morning." 
This  referred,  of  course,  to  an  imaginary  appropriation  of  two  girls  he 
had  just  seen  in  church. 

Later  he  entered  the  school  of  the  Misses  Ready  and  passed  thence 
to  their  brother's  school,  staying  there  till  he  was  fourteen,  but  his  con- 
tempt for  the  petty  and  formal  learning  which  is  the  best  accorded 
many  children,  was  marked,  and  perfectly  natural  to  a  boy  who  delighted 
to  plunge  in  the  deeper  knowledge  his  father's  book-crammed  house 
opened  generously  to  him. 

In  the  list,  given  by  Mrs.  Orr,  of  books  early  attractive  to  him,  were 
a  seventeenth  edition  of  Quarles's  ^  Emblems ' ;  first  editions  of '  Robinson 
Crusoe,'  and  Milton ;  the  original  pamphlet,  *  Killing  no  Murder'  (1559) 
which  Carlyle  borrowed  for  his  *  Cromwell ' ;  an  early  edition  of  the 
*•  Bees '  by  the  Bernard  Mandeville,  with  whom  he  was  destined  later  to 
hold  a  *  Parleying '  of  his  own ;  rare  old  Bibles ;  Voltaire ;  a  wide  range 
of  English  poetry ;  the  Greek  and  Elizabethan  dramatists. 

His  father's  profound  love  of  poetry  was  essentially  classic,  and  his 
marked  aptitude  in  rhyming  followed  the  models  of  Pope,  but  Brown- 
ing's early  poet  was  Byron,  and  all  his  sympathies  were  warmly  roman- 
tic. His  verse-making,  which  began  before  he  could  write,  resulted  at 
twelve  in  a  volume  of  short  poems,  presumably  Byronic,  which  he 
gracefully  entitled  *  Incondita.' 

He  wanted,  in  vain,  to  find  a  publisher  for  this,  and  soon  afterwards 
destroyed  it,  but  not  before  his  mother  had  shown  it  to  Miss  Flower, 
and  she,  to  her  sister,  Sarah  Flower,  and  to  Mr.  Fox,  and  the  budding 
poet  had  thus  gained  the  attention  of  three  genuine  friends. 

Shortly  after  this,  the  Byronic  star  which  had  shed  its  somewhat 
lurid  influence  over  the  first  ebullitions  of  his  genius,  was  forever  ban- 
ished by  the  appearance  of  a  new  star  within  his  field  of  vision.  In- 
credible as  it  may  seem  to  the  present  generation,  he  had  never  heard 


of  Shelley,  and  if  it  had  not  been  for  a  happy  chance,  an  important  in« 
iluence  in  the  early  shaping  of  his  poetic  faculties  might  have  been 
postponed  until  too  late  to  furnish  its  quickening  impulse. 

One  day  in  passing  a  book-stall,  he  happened  to  see  advertised  in  a 
box  of  second-hand  wares  a  little  book,  ^Mr.  Shelley's  Atheistical 
Poems:'  very  scarce.  Though  the  little  second-hand  volume  was 
only  a  miserable  pirated  edition,  by  its  means  such  entrancing  glimpses 
of  an  unsuspected  world  were  revealed  to  the  boy  that  he  longed  to 
possess  more  of  Shelley.  His  mother,  accordingly,  sallied  forth  in  search 
of  Shelley's  poems,  \vhich,  after  many  tribulations,  she  at  length  found  at 
C.  and  J.  OUier's  of  Vere  Street.  She  brought  away  not  only  nearly  all 
of  Shelley  in  first  editions  (the  *  Cenci '  excepted),  but  three  volumes 
of  Keats,  whom  she  was  assured  would  interest  anybody  who  liked 
Shelley.  Browning,  himself,  used  to  recall  how,  at  the  end  of  this 
eventful  day,  two  nightingales,  one  in  the  laburnum  at  the  end  of  his 
father's  garden,  and  one  in  a  copper  beech  in  the  next  garden,  sang  in 
emulation  of  the  poets  whose  music  had  laid  its  subtile  spell  upon  him. 
While  Keats  was  duly  appreciated,  it  was  Shelley  who  appealed  most 
to  Browning,  and  although  it  was  some  years  before  any  poetic  mani- 
festation of  Shelley's  influence  was  to  work  itself  out,  he,  with  youthful 
ardor,  at  once  adopted  the  crude  attitude  taken-  by  Shelley  in  his 
immature  work  *  Queen  Mab,'  became  a  professing  atheist,  and  even 
went  so  far  as  to  practise  vegetarianism,  of  which,  however,  he  was  soon 
cured  because  of  its  unpleasant  effect  on  his  eyesight.  Of  his  atheism 
Mrs.  Orr  says,  "  His  mind  was  not  so  constituted  that  such  doubt  fast- 
ened itself  upon  it ;  nor  did  he  ever  in  after  life  speak  of  this  period  of 
negation  except  as  an  access  of  boyish  folly,  with  which  his  mature  self 
could  have  no  concern.  The  return  to  religious  belief  did  not  shake 
his  faith  in  his  new  prophet.  It  only  made  him  willing  to  admit  that 
he  had  misread  him.  This  period  of  Browning's  life  remained,  never- 
theless, one  of  rebellion  and  unrest,  to  which  many  circumstances  may 
have  contributed  besides  the  influence  of  one  mind." 

With  the  exception  of  the  poetic  awakening  just  recorded.  Brown- 
ing's youthful  life  is  uneventful. 

By  his  father's  decision  his  education  was  continued  at  home  with 
instruction  in  dancing,  riding,  boxing,  fencing ;  in  French  with  a  tutor 
for  two  years ;  and  in  music  with  John  Relfe  for  theory,  and  a  Mr.  Abel, 
pupil  of  Moscheles,  for  execution,  doubtless  supplemented  with  contin- 
uous browsing  among  the  rare  books  in  his  father's  library.  At  eighteen 
he  attended  a  Greek  class  at  the  London  University  for  a  term  or  two 
and  with  thb  his  formal  education  ceased.  It  was  while  at  the  uni- 
versity that  his  final  choice  of  poetry  as  his  future  profession  was  made* 


That  he  had  a  bent  in  other  artistic  directions  as  well  as  that  of  poetry 
is  witnessed  by  his  own  confession  written  on  the  fly-leaf  of  a  first 
edition  of  ^  Pauline  *  now  treasured  in  the  South  Kensington  Museum. 
"  <  Pauline '  written  in  piusuance  of  a  foolish  plan  I  forget,  or  have  no 
wish  to  remember;  involving  the  assumption  of  several  distinct 
characters :  the  world  was  never  to  guess  tiiat  such  an  opera,  such  a 
comedy,  such  a  speech  proceeded  firom  the  same  notable  person." 

Some  idea  had  been  entertained  of  the  possibility  of  Robertas  quali- 
fying himself  for  the  bar,  but  Mr.  Browning  was  entirely  too  much  in 
sympathy  with  his  son^s  interests  to  put  any  obstacles  in  the  way  of  his 
dioice,  and  did  everything  in  his  power  to  help  him  in  establishing 
himself  in  his  poetiod  career.  When  the  decision  was  made,  Brown- 
ing^s  first  step  was  to  read  and  digest  the  whole  of  Johnson^s  Dictionary. 

During  these  5^ears  of  preparation  his  consciousness  of  his  own  latent 
powers,  together  with  youthful  immaturity,  made  him,  firom  all  accounts, 
a  somewhat  obstreperous  personage.  Mrs.  Orr  says  that  his  mother 
was  much  distressed  at  his  impatience  and  aggressiveness.  ^^  He  set 
the  judgments  of  those  about  him  at  defiance,  and  gratuitously  pro- 
d^med  himself  everything  that  he  was  and  some  things  that  he  was 
not."  It  is  probable,  as  his  sister  suggests,  that  the  life  of  Camberwell, 
in  spite  of  the  dear  home  to  which  he  was  much  attached,  and  a  small 
coterie  of  congenial  Mends,  including  his  cousins,  the  Silverthomes, 
and  Alfred  Domett,  did  not  afford  sufficient  scope  for  the  expansion  of 
his  eager  intelligence. 

In  1833  appeared  the  first  flowering  of  his  genius  in  '  Pauline,'  for  the 
publication  of  which  his  aunt,  Mrs.  Silverthome,  furnished  the  money. 
It  wa&  printed  with  no  name  affixed,  by  Saunders  and  Otley. 

The  influence  of  Shelley  breathes  Uirough  this  poem ;  not  only  is  it 
immanent  in  the  music  of  the  verse,  but  in  its  general  atmosphere, 
while  one  of  its  finest  climaxes  is  the  apostrophe  to  Shelley  beginning, 
"  Sun-treader,  life  and  light  be  thine  forever ! "  These  influences, 
however,  are  conuningled  with  elements  of  striking  originality  indi- 
cating, in  spite  of  some  crudities  of  construction,  that  here  was  a  new 
force  in  the  poetic  world.  Not  many  recognized  it  at  the  time.  Among 
those  who  did  was  his  former  firiend,  Mr.  Fox,  then  editor  of  the  Monthly 
Repository,  who  gave  *  Pauline '  a  sympathetic  review  in  his  magazine. 
Later,  another  article  praising  it  was  printed  in  the  same  magazine. 
This  and  one  or  two  other  inadequate  notices  ended  its  early  literary 
history,  and  thus  was  unassumingly  planted  the  first  seed  of  one  of  the 
most  splendid  poetical  growths  the  world  has  seen.  How  completely 
*  Pauline '  was  forgotten  is  shown  by  the  anecdote  told  of  Rossetti's 
coming  across  it  in  the  British  Museum  twenty  years  later,  and  guess- 


ing  from  internal  evidence  that  it  was  by  the  author  of  *  Paracelsus.' 
Delighted  with  it,  he  transcribed  it.  If  he  had  not,  it  might  have 
remained  buried  there  to  this  day,  for  Browning  was  very  loath  to 
acknowledge  this  early  child  of  his  genius. 

A  journey  to  Russia  at  the  invitation  of  the  Russian  consul-general, 
Mr.  Benckhausen,  with  whom  he  went  as  nominal  secretary,  and  the 
contribution  to  the  Monthly  Repository  of  five  short  poems  fills  up  the 
time  until  the  appearance  of  *  Paracelsus.'  Most  remarkable  among 
these  short  poems  were  *  Porphyria's  Lover '  and  *  Johannes  Agricola  in 
Meditation,'  of  which  Mr.  Gosse  says,  "  It  is  a  curious  matter  for  reflec- 
tion that  two  poems  so  unique  in  their  construction  and  conception,  so 
modem,  so  interesting,  so  new  could  be  printed  without  attracting  atten- 
tion so  far  as  it  would  appear  from  any  living  creature." 

Paracelsus  was  suggested  as  a  subject  to  Browning  bytTount  de  Ripert 
Monclar,  a  young  French  Royalist,  who,  while  spending  his  summers  in 
England,  formed  a  fiiendship  with  the  poet.  The  absence  of  love  in 
the  story  seemed  to  him  afterwards  a  drawback,  but  Browning,  having 
read  up  the  literature  of  Paracelsus  at  the  British  Museum,  decided  to 
follow  his  friend's  suggestion  and  according  to  promise  dedicated  the 
poem  to  Count  Monclar. 

In  the  days  when  he  was  writing  '  Paracelsus '  Browning  was  fond  of 
drawing  inspiration  firom  midnight  rambles  in  the  Dulwich  woods,  and 
he  used  often  to  compose  in  the  open  air.  Here  we  may  perhaps  find 
an  explanation  of  the  fact  that  in  these  earlier  poems  there  is  a  constant 
interfusion  of  nature  imagery  which,  later,  when  the  poet  "  fared  up  and 
down  amid  men,"  gave  place  to  the  human  emotions  upon  which  his 
thoughts  became  concentred,  or  appeared  only  at  rare  intervals. 

Mr.  Fox,  always  ready  to  praise  the  young  poet  whom  he  had  been 
the  first  to  recognize,  was  upon  the  publication  of  *  Paracelsus' 
seconded  by  John  Forster,  who  wrote  an  appreciative  article  about  it  in 
the  Examiner, 

If  *  Paracelsus'  did  not  win  popularity,  it  gained  the  poet  many 
friends  among  the  literary  men  of  the  day.  From  this  period  dates  the 
acquaintanceship  of  notabilities  like  Serjeant  Talfourd,  Home,  Leigh 
Hunt,  Barry  Cornwall,  Harriet  Martineau,  Miss  Mitford,  Monckton 
Milnes,  Dickens,  Wordsworth,  Landor,  and  others.  The  most  impor- 
tant in  its  consequences  of  his  new  friendships  was  that  begun  with  the 
celebrated  actor  William  Macready,  to  whom  he  was  introduced  by 
Mr.  Fox.  Macready,  delighted  with  Browning,  shortly  after  asked  him 
to  a  New  Year's  party  at  his  house  at  Elstree. 

Every  one  who  met  the  poet  seemed  attracted  by  his  personality. 
Macready  said  he  looked  more  like  a  youthful  poet  than  any  man  he 


had  ever  seen.  Mr.  Sharpens  description  of  him  from  hearsay  is  more 
definite.  As  a  young  man  he  appears  to  have  had  a  certain  ivory  deli- 
cacy of  coloring.  -He  appeared  taller  than  he  was,  partly  because  of 
his  rare  grace  of  movement  and  partly  from  a  characteristic  high  poise 
of  the  head  when  listening  intently  to  music  or  conversation.  Even 
then  he  had  the  expressive  wave  of  the  hand  which  in  later  years  was 
as  full  of  various  meanings  as  the  Ecco  of  an  Italian. 

A  swift  alertness  pervaded  him  noticeably  as  much  in  the  rapid 
change  of  expression,  in  the  deepening  and  illuming  colors  of  his 
singularly  expressive  eyes,  and  in  his  sensitive  mouth  as  in  his  grey- 
hound-like apprehension,  which  so  often  grasped  the  subject  in  its 
entirety  before  its  propounder  himself  realized  its  significance.  His 
hair — then  of  a  brown  so  dark  as  to  appear  black  —  was  so  beautiful 
in  its  heavy,  sculpturesque  waves  as  frequently  to  attract  attention. 
His  voice  then  had  a  rare  flute-like  tone,  clear,  sweet,  and  resonant. 

The  influence  of  Macready  turned  the  poet's  thoughts  toward  writing 
for  the  stage.  A  drama,  *  Narses,'  was  discussed,  but  for  some  reason 
abandoned,  and  the  subject  of  Strafford  was  decided  upon  in  its  place. 

The  occasion  upon  which  the  decision  was  made  gives  an  attractive 
glimpse  of  the  young  Browning  receiving  his  first  social  honor.  It  was 
at  a  dinner  at  Talfourd's  after  the  performance  of  *  Ion,'  in  which  Mac- 
ready  acted.    Mr.  Sharpe  says :  — 

"To  his  surprise  and  gratification,  Browning  found  himself  placed 
next  but  one  to  his  host  and  immediately  opposite  Macready,  who  sat  be- 
tween two  gentlemen,  one  calm  as  a  summer  evening,  the  other  with  a 
tempestuous  youth  dominating  his  sixty  years,  whom  the  young  poet 
at  once  recognized  as  Wordsworth  and  Walter  Savage  Landor.  When 
Talfourd  rose  to  propose  the  toast  of  *  The  Poets  of  England,'  every  one 
probably  expected  that  Wordsworth  would  be  named  to  respond ;  but 
with  a  kindly  grace,  the  host,  after  flattering  remarks  upon  the  two 
great  men  then  honoring  him  by  sitting  at  his  table,  coupled  his  toast 
with  the  name  of  the  youngest  of  the  poets  of  England,  Mr.  Robert 
Browning,  the  author  of  *  Paracelsus.'  According  to  Miss  Mitford,  he 
responded  with  grace  and  modesty,  looking  even  younger  than  he  was." 

The  conversation  turning  upon  the  drama,  Macready  said,  "  Write  a 
play,  Browning,  and  keep  me  from  going  to  America."  The  reply  came, 
"  Shall  it  be  historical  and  English  ?  What  do  you  say  to  a  drama  on 

*  SordeUo '  had  already  been  begun,  but '  Strafford  '  and  a  journey  to 
Italy  were  to  intervene  before  it  was  finished.  *  Strafford'  was  per- 
formed at  Covent  Garden,  May  i,  1837,  with  Macready  as  Strafford  and 
Helen  Faudt  as  Lady  Carlisle,  was  well  received,  and  would  probably 


have  had  a  long  run  had  it  not  been  for  difficulties  which  arose  in  the 
theatre  management. 

If  Shelley  was  the  paramount  influence  of  his  youthful  years,  from 
the  time  of  his  Italian  journey  in  1838,  Italy  became  an  influence  which 
was  henceforth  to  exert  its  magic  over  his  work.  He  liked  to  call  Italy 
his  university.  In  *  Sordello '  he  had  already  chosen  an  Italian  subject, 
and  his  journey  was  undertaken  partly  with  the  idea  of  gaining  personal 
experience  of  the  scenes  wherein  the  tragedy  of  Sordello's  soul  was 

It  was  published  in  1840,  and  except  for  a  notice  in  the  Eclectic  Re- 
vieWy  and  the  appreciation  of  a  few  friends,  was  ignored.  A  world  not 
over  sensitive  to  the  beauties  of  his  previous  work,  could  hardly  be 
expected  to  welcome  enthusiastically  a  poem  so  complex  in  its  his- 
torical setting  and  so  full  of  philosophy.  Even  the  keenest  intellects 
approach  this  poem  with  the  feeling  that  they  are  about  to  attack  a 
problem ;  for  in  spite  of  undoubted  power  and  many  beauties,  it  must 
be  confessed  that  the  luxuriance  of  the  poet's  mental  force  often  unduly 
overbalances  his  sense  of  artistic  proportion.  Evidently  the  world  was 
frightened.  The  little  breeze,  with  which  Browning's  career  began, 
instead  of  developing  as  it  normally  should  into  a  strong  wind  of  uni- 
versal recognition,  died  out,  and  for  twenty  years  nothing  he  could  do 
seemed  to  win  for  him  his  just  deserts,  though  his  very  next  poem, 
*  Pippa  Passes,'  showed  him  already  a  consummate  master  of  his  forces 
both  on  the  artistic  side  and  in  tiie  special  realm  which  he  chose,  the 
development  of  the  soul. 

*  Pippa  Passes,'  *  King  Victor  and  King  Charles,'  and  '  The  Return  of 
the  Druses '  lay  in  his  desk  for  some  time  without  a  publisher.  He 
finally  arranged  with  Edward  Moxon  to  bring  them  out  in  pamphlet 
form,  using  cheap  type,  each  issue  to  consist  of  a  sixteen-page  form, 
printed  in  double  columns.  This  was  the  beginning  of  the  now  cele- 
brated series,  *  Bells  and  Pomegranates.'  They  were  issued^ from  1841 
to  1846,  and  included  all  the  dramas  and  a  number  of  short  poems. 

The  only  one  of  these  poems  with  a  story  other  than  literary,  is  *  The 
Blot  in  the  'Scutcheon,'  written  for  Macready,  and  performed  at  Drury 
Lane,  on  February  11,  1843.  A  favorite  weapon  in  the  hands  of  the 
Philistines  has  been  the  often  reiterated  statement  that  the  performance 
was  a  failure.  A  letter  from  Browning  to  Mr.  Hill,  editor  of  the  Daily 
News,  at  the  time  of  the  revival  of  *  The  Blot '  by  Lawrence  Barrett 
in  1884,  drawn  out  by  the  same  old  falsehood,  gives  the  truth  in  regard 
to  the  matter,  and  should  silence  once  for  all  the  ubiquitous  Philis- 


**  Macready  received  and  accepted  the  play,  while  he  was  en^^ed  at 
the  Haymarket,  and  retained  it  for  Drury  Lane,  of  which  I  was  i^orant 
that  he  was  about  to  become  the  manager :  he  accepted  it  at  the  instiga- 
tion of  nobody.  .  .  .  When  the  Drury  Lane  season  began,  Macready 
informed  me  that  he  would'act  the  play  when  he  had  brought  out  two 
others,  —  *The  Patrician's  Daughter'  and  *  Plighted  Troth.'  Having 
done  so,  he  wrote  to  me  that  the  former  had  been  unsuccessful  in  money- 
drawing,  and  the  latter  had  '  smashed  his  arrangements  altogether' :  but 
he  womd  still  produce  my  play.  In  my  ignorance  of  certain  symptoms 
better  understood  by  Macready's  professional  acquaintances  —  I  had  no 
notion  that  it  was  a  proper  thing,  in  such  a  case,  to  release  him  from 
his  promise ;  on  the  contrary,  I  should  have  fancied  that  such  a  pro- 
posal was  offensive.  Soon  after,  Macready  begged  that  I  would  call  on 
him :  he  said  the  play  had  been  read  to  the  actors  the  day  before,  *and 
laughed  at  from  beginning  to  end ' ;  on  my  speaking  my  mind  about 
this,  he  explained  that  the  reading  had  been  done  by  the  prompter,  a 
grotesque  person  with  a  red  nose  and  wooden  leg,  ill  at  ease  in  the  love 
scenes,  and  that  he  would  himself  make  amends  by  reading  the  play 
next  morning,  —  which  he  did,  and  very  adequately,  —  but  apprised  me 
that  in  consequence  of  the  state  of  his  mind,  harassed  by  business  and 
various  troubles,  the  principal  character  must  be  taken  by  Mr.  Phelps ; 
and  again  I  failed  to  understand,  .  .  .  that  to  allow  at  Macready's  the- 
atre any  other  than  Macready  to  play  the  principal  part  in  a  new  piece 
was  suicidal,  and  really  believed  I  was  meeting  his  exigencies  by  accept- 
ing the  substitute.  At  the  rehearsal,  Macready  announced  that  Mr. 
Phelps  was  ill,  and  that  he  himself  would  read  the  part :  on  the  third 
rehearsal,  Mr.  Phelps  appeared  for  the  first  time  .  .  .  while  Macready 
more  than  read,  rehearsed  the  part.  The  next  morning  Mr.  Phelps 
waylaid  me  to  say  .  .  .  that  Macready  would  play  Tresham  on  the 

ground  that  himself,  Phelps,  was  unable  to  do  so.  .  .  .  He  added  that 
e  could  not  expect  me  to  waive  such  an  advantage,  —  but  that  if  I  were 
prepared  to  waive  it,  *  he  would  take  ether,  sit  up  all  night,  and  have  the 
words  in  his  memory  by  next  day.'  I  bade  him  follow  me  to  the  green- 
room, and  hear  what  I  decided  upon  —  which  was  that  as  Macready  had 
given  him  the  part,  he  should  keep  it :  this  was  on  a  Thursday ;  he  re- 
earsed  oh  Friday  and  Saturday,  —  the  play  being  acted  the  same  even- 
ing,—  of  the  fifth  day  after  the  *  reading''  by  Macready.  Macready  at 
once  wished  to  reduce  the  importance  of  the  play  .  .  .  tried  to  leave 
out  so  much  of  the  text,  that  I  baffled  him  by  getting  it  printed  in  four 
and  twenty  hours,  by  Moxon's  assistance.  He  wanted  me  to  csdl  it  <  The 
Sister!'  —  and  I  have  before  me  .  .  .  the  stage-acting  copy,  with  two 
lines  of  his  own  insertion  to  avoid  the  tragical  ending  —  Tresham  was 
to  announce  his  intention  of  going  into  a  monastery!  all  this,  to  keep 
up  the  belief  that  Macready,  and  Macready  ajone,  could  produce  a  veri- 
table 'tragedy'  unproduced  before.  Not  a  shilling  was  spent  on  scen- 
ery or  dresses.  If  your  critic  considers  this  treatment  of  the  play  an 
instance  of  *  the  failure  of  powerful  and  experienced  actors '  to  insure  its 
success,  —  I  can  only  say  that  my  own  opinion  was  shown  by  at  once 


breaking  off  a  friendship  .  .  .  which  had  a  right  to  be  plainly  and 
simply  told  that  the  play  1  had  contributed  as  a  proof  of  it  would,  through 
a  change  of  circumstances,  no  longer  be  to  my  friend's  advantage.  .  .  . 
Only  recently,  .  .  .  when  the  extent  of  his  pecuniary  embarrassments 
at  that  time  was  made  known,  could  I  in  a  measure  understand  his  mo- 
tives—  less  than  ever  understand  why  he  so  strangely  disguised  them. 
If  ^  applause,'  means  success,  the  play  thus  maimed  and  maltreated  waa 
successftil  enough ;  it  *  made  way '  for  Macready's  own  Benefit  and  the 
theatre  closed  a  fortnight  after." 

Browning's  second  visit  to  Italy  took  place  in  the  autumn  of  1844,  from 
which  he  returned  to  meet  with  the  supreme  spiritual  influence  of  his 
life.  *  Lady  Geraldine's  Courtship '  had  just  been  published,  and  Brown- 
ing expressing  his  enthusiasm  for  it  to  Mr.  Kenyon,  a  dear  friend  of  his 
and  a  cousin  of  Miss  Barrett's,  the  latter  immediately  suggested  that 
Browning  should  write  and  tell  her  of  his  delight  in  it.  The  corre- 
spondence soon  developed  into  a  meeting  which  was  at  first  refused  by 
Miss  Barrett  in  a  few  self-depreciative  words,  "  There  is  nothing  to  see 
in  me,  nothing  to  hear  in  me,  I  am  a  weed  fit  for  the  ground  and  dark- 

Mr.  Browning's  fate  was  sealed  at  the  first  meeting,  we  are  told,  but 
Miss  Barrett,  conscious  of  the  obstacle  offered  by  her  ill-health,  was  not 
easily  won,  and  only  consented,  at  last,  with  the  proviso  that  their 
marriage  should  depend  upon  improvement  in  her  health. 

Though  the  new  joy  in  her  life  seemed  to  give  her  fresh  strength,  her 
doctor  told  her,  in  the  summer  of  1846,  that  her  only  hope  of  recovery 
depended  upon  her  spending  the  coming  winter  in  Italy.  Her  father 
having  absolutely  refrised  to  hear  of  such  a  course,  she  was  persuaded 
to  consent  to  a  private  marriage  with  Mr.  Browning,  which  took  place 
on  September  12,  1846,  at  St.  Pancras  Church.  A  week  later  they 
started  for  Italy.    Mrs.  Orr  writes :  — 

"  In  the  late  afternoon  or  evening  of  September  19,  Mrs.  Browning, 
attended  by  her  maid  and  her  dog,  stole  away  from  her  father's  house. 
The  family  were  at  dinner,  at  which  meal  she  was  not  in  the  habit  of 
joining  them ;  her  sisters,  Henrietta  and  Arabel,  had  been  throughout 
in  the  secret  of  her  attachment  and  in  full  sympathy  with  it ;  in  the 
case  of  the  servants  she  was  also  sure  of  friendly  connivance.  There 
was  no  difficulty  in  her  escape,  but  that  created  by  the  dog,  which  might 
be  expected  to  bark  its  consciousness  of  the  unusual  situation.  She 
took  him  into  her  confidence.  She  said,  *  O  Flush,  if  you  make  a  sound, 
I  am  lost.'  And  Flush  understood,  as  what  good  dog  would  not,  and 
crept  after  his  mistress  in  silence." 

Mr.  Barrett  never  forgave  her  and  never  saw  her  again.  The  sur- 
prise and  consternation  of  Mr.  Browning's  family  was  soon  transformed 


into  love  for  Mrs.  Browning,  while  Mr.  Kenyon,  who  had  not  been  told 
because,  as  Mrs.  Browning  said,  she  did  not  wish  to  implicate  any  one 
in  the  deception  she  was  obliged  to  practise  against  her  &ther,  was 
overjoyed  at  the  result  of  his  kindly  offices  in  bringing  the  two  poets 

After  a  journey  full  of  suffering  for  Mrs.  Browning  and  the  tenderest 
devotion  on  the  part  of  Mr.  Browning,  they  halted  at  Pisa,  memorable 
as  the  spot  where  Mrs.  Browning  presented  her  husband  with  the 
matchless  ^  Sonnets  from  the  Portuguese.*  Mrs.  Browning^s  health  im- 
proved greatly  in  the  genial  climate.  The  whole  of  their  married 
life,  with  the  exception  of  occasional  summers  in  England  and  two 
winters  in  Paris,  was  spent  in  Italy,  and  what  that  married  life  was  in 
its  harmonious  blending  of  two  unusually  congenial  souls  we  have 
abundant  evidence  in  the  glimpses  obtained  from  Mrs.  Browning^s  let- 
ters, and  the  recollections  of  it  in  the  minds  of  their  many  friends. 

In  the  siunmer  of  1847  they  established  themselves  in  Florence  in 
the  Casa  Guidi.  It  became  practically  their  Italian  home,  varied  by 
sojourns  in  Ancona,  at  the  baths  of  Lucca,  Venice,  and  winters  in 
Rome  in  1854  and  1859. 

In  Florence,  March  9,  1849,  ^^^  son  was  bom,  and  to  Mrs.  Brown- 
ing^s  life,  especially,  was  added  one  more  element  of  intense  happiness. 
Mrs.  Orr  thinks  that  in  Pompilia  in  *•  The  Ring  and  the  Book,*  is  reflected 
the  maternal  joy  as  Browning  saw  it  revealed  in  Mrs.  Browning^s  rela- 
tion to  her  son.  A  shadow  was  at  the  same  time  cast  over  Browning^s 
life  by  the  death  of  his  mother,  who  died  just  as  the  news  was  received 
of  the  birth  of  her  grandchild.  Mrs.  Browning,  writing  to  a  friend, 
said,  ^^My  husband  has  been  in  the  greatest  anguish.  ...  He  has 
loved  his  mother  as  such  passionate  natures  only  can  love,  and  I  never 
saw  a  man  so  bowed  down  in  an  extremity  of  sorrow,  —  never." 

The  first  effect  of  Browning's  marriage  seems  to  have  been  to  put  his 
muse  to  sleep.  Up  to  1850  the  only  events  in  his  literary  career  were 
the  performance  of  *  The  Blot '  at  Sadler's  Wells  in  1848,  and  the  issue 
of  a  collected  edition  of  his  works  in  1849.  ^^  ^^S^y  ^^  Florence,  he 
wrote  *  Christmas  Eve '  and  *  Easter  Day,'  and  in  Paris,  1857,  the  *  Essay 
on  Shelley '  to  be  prefixed  to  twenty-five  letters  of  Shelley's,  that  after- 
wards turned  out  to  be  spurious. 

The  fifty  poems  in  *  Men  and  Women '  complete  the  record  of  Brown- 
ing's work  during  his  wife's  life.  They  appeared  in  1855,  and  reflect 
very  directly  new  sources  of  inspiration  which  had  come  into  his  life 
with  his  marriage. 

Though  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Browning  led  a  comparatively  quiet  life,  they 
gathered  around  them,  wherever  they  were,  a  distinguished  circle  of 


friends.  In  the  early  days  at  Florence,  they  much  enjoyed  the  sodety 
of  Margaret  Fuller  Ossoli.  Joseph  Milsand  and  George  Sand  —  the 
first  a  cherished  friend,  the  last  simply  an  acquaintance  —  connect 
themselves  with  their  life  in  Paris,  while  in  London  and  Rome  all  the 
bright  particular  stars  of  the  time  circled  about  them,  some  of  whom 
were  the  Storys,  the  Hawthomes,  the  Carlyles,  the  Kemble  sisters,  Car- 
dinal Manning,  Sir  Frederick  Leighton,  Rossetti,  Val  Princeps,  and 

Mrs.  Browning's  death  at  dawn,  on  the  29th  of  June,  1 861,  cut  short 
the  golden  period  of  these  Italian  days.  Even  in  his  bereavement  he 
had  cause  to  be  poignantly  happy.  For  he  had  watched  beside  his 
wife  on  that  last  night,  and  she,  weak,  though  suffering  little  and  with- 
out presentiment  of  the  end  which  even  to  him  seemed  not  so  immi- 
nent, had  given  him,  as  he  wrote,—-  "  what  my  heart  will  keep  till  I  see 
her  again  and  longer, — the  most  perfect  expression  of  her  love  to  me 
within  my  whole  knowledge  of  her."  He  added,  "  I  shall  grow  still,  I 
hope,  but  my  root  is  taken  and  remains."  He  left  Florence  never  to 
return.  His  settling  in  London  that  winter  was  a  result  of  his  wife's 
death,  destined  to  bring  him  into  closer  touch  with  an  English  public 
which  was  to  like  him  yet.  The  change  was  dictated  by  his  care  for 
his  son's  education,  whose  well-being  he  considered  a  trust  fi*om  his  wife. 

In  1862,  he  wrote  from  Biarritz  of  *  Pen's'  enjoyment  of  his  holidajrs, 
adding,  "  for  me  I  have  got  on  by  having  a  great  read  at  Euripides 
besides  attending  to  my  own  matters,  my  new  poem  that  is  about  to  be 
and  of  which  the  whole  is  pretty  well  in  my  head  —  the  Roman  murder 
story."  But  the  Roman  murder  story  was  long  in  taking  shape  as 
*  The  Ring  and  the  Book.'  It  had  been  conceived  in  one  of  his  last 
June  evenings  at  Disa  Guidi,  but  the  rude  break  in  his  life  made  by 
Mrs.  Browning's  death  remains  marked  in  the  record  of  this  work's 
incubation.  During  the  next  years  spent  in  London,  with  holida)rs  in 
Brittany,  work  went  steadily  on,  first  for  the  three-volume  collected 
edition  of  1863  of  his  works,  and  then  for  *  Dramatis  Personae,'  pub- 
lished in  the  year  following,  before  *  The  Ring  and  the  Book '  came  out 
at  last,  in  1868.  With  the  appearance  of  this,  and  the  six-volume 
edition  of  his  works,  the  poet  began  to  reap  the  abundant  fruits  of  a 
slow  but  solidly-founded  fame. 

It  was  not  until  1871,  however,  that  the  "great  read  at  Euripides'* 
showed  its  significance  in  *  Balaustion's  Adventure '  and  four  years 
later  again,  in  '  Aristophanes'  Apology.'  rounding  out  thus  his  original 
criticism  of  Greek  life  and  literature  and  especially  affecting  '  Euripides 
the  human,'  whom  his  wife  had  been  earliest  to  deliver  from  blunder- 
ing censure. 


Whfle  in  the  midst  of  thb  prosperous  scheme  of  work  he  wrote : 
*^  I  feel  such  comfort  and  delight  in  doing  the  best  I  can  with  my  own 
object  of  life,  poetry,  —  which,  I  think,  I  never  could  have  seen  the 
good  of  before,  —  that  it  shows  me  I  have  taken  the  root  I  did  take 
well.  I  hope  to  do  much  more  —  and  that  the  flower  of  it  will  be  put 
into  Her  hand  somehow.^^ 

His  father  had  died  in  Paris  in  1866,  at  the  age  of  eighty-five. 
Brother  and  sister,  now  each  left  alone,  lived  together  thenceforth  a 
life  of  tranquil  uneventfulness,  alternating  between  London  and  the 
Continent — a  life  rich  in  pleasant  acquaintances  and  warm  friendships 
and  increasingly  full  of  invitations  and  honors  of  all  sorts  for  the  poet 
Supreme  among  the  friendships  was  that  with  Miss  Anne  Egerton 
Smith.  Music  was  the  special  bond  of  sympathy  between  her  and 
Browning,  and  while  they  were  both  in  London  no  important  concert 
lacked  their  appreciation.  Miss  Browning,  her  brother,  and  Miss 
Smith  spent  adso  four  successive  summers  together,  the  fourth  at 
Sal^ve,  near  Geneva,  where  Miss  Smithes  sudden  death  was  the  occasion 
of  Browning^s  poem  on  immortality,  ^  La  Saisiaz.^  Among  the  honors 
the  poet  received  were. the  organization  of  the  London  Browning 
Society  in  1881,  degrees  from  Oxford  and  from  Cambridge,  and  nomina- 
tions for  the  Rectorship  of  Glasgow  University  and  for  that  of  St. 
Andrews.  The  latter  was  a  unanimous  nomination  from  the  students, 
and  as  an  evidence  of  the  younger  generation's  esteem  of  his  poetic 
influence  was  more  than  commonly  gratifying  to  Browning,  although 
he  declined  this  and  all  other  such  overtures. 

His  activities  during  the  remainder  of  his  days,  his  social  and  friendly 
life  in  London  and  later  in  Venice,  were  habitually  cheerful  and  genial. 
He  sedulously  cultivated  happiness.  This  was  indeed  the  consistent 
result  of  the  fact  to  which  those  who  knew  him  best  bear  witness,  that 
he  held  the  great  lyric  love  of  his  life  as  sacred,  and  cherished  it  as  a 
religion.  Those  who  know  the  whole  body  of  his  work  most  inti- 
mately will  be  readiest  to  corroborate  this  on  subtiler  evidence;  for 
only  on  the  hypothesis  of  a  unique  revelation  of  the  significance  of 
a  supreme  human  love  from  whose  large  sureness  smaller  dramatic 
exemplifications  of  love  in  life  derive  their  vitality  can  the  varied 
overplay  of  his  art  and  the  deep  sufficiency  of  his  religious  reconcilia- 
tion of  Power  and  Love  be  adequately  understood.  As  he  himself  once 
said,  the  romance  of  his  life  was  in  his  own  soul.  To  this  perhaps  the 
bibliography  of  his  works  will  ever  provide  the  most  accurate  outline 

After  the  issue  of  his  Greek  pieces,  the  most  noticeable  new  features 
of  his  remaining  work  may  be  summed  up  as  idyllic  and  lyric.    A  new 


picturesqueness  interpenetrated  his  dramatic  pieces,  as  if  he  were 
dowered  with  a  fresh  pleasure  in  eyesight.  This  was  shown  in  the 
'  Dramatic  Idyls.*  A  new  purity  intensified  his  lyrical  faculty.  This 
is  shown  in  the  lyrics  in  <  Ferishtah^s  Fancies  *  and  in  <  Asolando.* 

To  his  whole  achieved  work  add  the  brief  final  record  of  his  content- 
ment in  his  son^s  marriage  in  1887,  his  removal  to  the  house  he  bought 
in  De  Vere  Gardens,  the  gradual  .weakening  of  his  robust  health  in  his 
last  yearS)  his  painless  death  in  Venice  in  his  son^s  Palazzo  Rezzonico 
on  the  very  diay,  December  12,  1889,  of  the  issue  of  'Asolando*  in 
London,  his  burial  in  Westminster  Abbey  in  Poets*  Comer,  Decembex 
31,  and  the  stoty  of  Robert  Browning^s  earthly  life  is  told. 

Charlotte  Porter. 

Helen  A.  Clarkb. 
May  20,  1896. 


''The  Ring  and  the  Book,^*  in  the  estimation  of  one  of  its  most 
appreciative  critics,  James  Thomson,  may  be  classed  among  those 
rare  works  of  literature,  philosophy,  or  art  which  give  the  impression 
of  being  too  gigantic  to  have  been  wrought  out  by  a  single  man. 
With  the  unerring  instinct  of  the  poet  for  subtle  and  illuminating 
analogies,  he  compared  it  in  its  grandeur  and  complexity  to  a  great 
Gothic  cathedral.  "For  here  truly,"  he  says,  **we  find  the  soaring 
towers  and  pinnacles,  the  multitudinous  niches  with  their  statues,  the 
innumerable  intricate  traceries,  the  gargoyles  wildly  grotesque;  and, 
within,  the  many  colored  light  through  the  stained  windows,  with  the 
red  and  purple  of  blood  predominant,  the  long,  pillared,  echoing  aisles, 
the  altar  with  its  piteous  crucifix  and  altar-piece  of  the  Last  Judgment, 
the  organ  and  choir  pealing  their  Miserere  and  De  Profundis  and  In 
Excelsis  DeOy  the  side  chapels  and  confessionals,  the  ^ntastic  wood- 
carvings,  the  tombs  with  effigies  sculptured  supine ;  and,  beneath,  yet 
another  chapel,  as  of  death,  and  the  solemn  sepulchral  crypts.  The 
counterparts  of  all  these,  I  dare  affirm,  may  veritably  be  found  in  this 
immense  and  complicate  structure,  whose  foundations  are  so  deep  and 
whose  crests  are  so  lofty.  Only  as  a  Gothic  cathedral  has  been  termed 
a  petrified  forest,  we  must  image  this  work  as  a  vivified  cathedral,  thrill- 
ing hot,  swift  life  through  all  its  marble  nerves.** 

This  analogy  of  the  living  cathedral  illustrates  the  richness  of  the 
poem  as  an  artistic  product.  It  involves,  moreover,  a  characteristic 
difierence  or  development  from  the  methods  of  Gothic  art.  It  is  by 
virtue  of  the  life  instinct  within  it  that  Gothic  art  and  the  art  of  "  The 
Ring  and  the  Book  **  are  akin ;  but  it  is  the  distinctive  trait  of  the  art 
of  the  poem  that  it  parts  utterly  with  the  rigidity  and  stability  of 
inorganic  form.  The  shifting,  flowing  trend  of  all  the  independent 
parts  of  the  poem  toward  an  organic  unity  of  design  is  the  only  sort 
of  fixity  to  which  Browning's  art  is  bound. 

The  social  organism,  made  up  of  living,  growing  personalities,  each 
intrinsically  valuable,  but  dependent  on  one  another  for  the  working 



out  of  their  ultimate  significance,  is  the  closest  exemplar  of  the  artistic 
plan  of  the  poem.  Not  content  with  social  material,  the  poet  devises 
an  artistic  method  that  b  also  social. 

His  own  share  as  artist  in  the  creation  and  purport  of  the  poem 
falls  into  place,  at  the  outset,  as  itself  also  an  element  to  be  taken 
account  of  in  the  interplay  of  human  personalities  behind  the  action 
presented  in  the  bare  £acts  of  the  story.  What  the  poef  s  own  touch 
upon  the  facts  was,  what  intent  he  held  toward  them,  and  what  his 
art^s  impress  upon  them  might  be  worth,  are,  broadly  speaking,  the 
questions  upon  which  he  arouses  interest  in  his  first  book. 

This  first  book  is  in  the  nature  of  a  prologue  to  the  poem,  and  so 
original  in  its  conception  as  to  hafve  caused  much  querulous  grumbling 
among  that  class  of  critics  which  feels  aggrieved  when  brought  &ce  to 
&ce  with  something  not  before  met  in  its  experience.  Instead  of  pre- 
senting a  more  or  less  ornamental  generalization  of  the  poet^s  purpose, 
or  a  symbolic  picture  of  the  underl3dng  motive  of  the  poem,  or  the 
even  less  vital  rhetorical  flourishes  characteristic  of  many  poetical 
prologues,  it  lays  before  the  reader  a  complete  sketch  of  the  plot,  — 
thus  shattering  at  one  blow  an  element  of  dramatic  art  upon  which 
authors  have  largely  relied  as  a  means  of  piquing  attention  by  alluring 
it  onwards  in  doubting  suspense  to  some  much-wished  for,  half-suspected 
denouement,  '  Has  not  the  poet  substituted  for  the  sacrificed  plot-deyel- 
opment  something  quite  as  alluring?  Examining  it  more  closely,  this 
prologue  will  be  found  to  possess  not  only  the  power  of  arousing  to 
the  utmost  an  interested  curiosity  as  to  what  is  to  follow,  but  to 
contain  intrinsic  elements  of  rare  fascination.  It  is  like  some  finely 
constructed  overture,  which,  having  a  distinct  subject  of  its  own,  yet 
combines  with  it  in  a  harmonious  whole  all  the  varying  musical  themes 
later  to  be  unfolded  and  enriched  in  the  body  of  the  opera. 

The  grand  central  theme  of  the  prologue  is  the  worth  of  art  as  a 
revealer  of  a  higher  truth  than  lies  in  the  fact  alone.  This  is  stated 
in  the  opening  Unes  by  means  of  the  beautiful  symbolism  of  the  ring. 
The  poet  then  proceeds  to  unfold  about  this  main  thought  the  pro- 
cesses of  the  artist-mind,  from  its  first  seizure  upon  the  bare  fact  and 
recognition  of  its  truth  as  j)ure  gold,  through  the  ever-deepening 
phases  of  inspiration,  until  the  work  of  poetic  art,  by  the  alloy  of 
fancy,  is  rounded  into  as  perfect  a  shape  as  the  exquisite  ring  wrought 
by  ."  Castellani's  imitative  craft."  As  a  means  for  illustrating  this 
development  of  his  inspiration,  the  poet  chooses  naturally  enough  the 
story  found  in  the  old  yellow  book  which  is  to  be  the  subject-matter 
of  the  poem.  In  showing  the  growth  of  his  own  fancy  about  this  nug- 
get of  truth,  he  at  the  same  time  reveals  the  incidents  of  the  story,  not 


primarily  for  the  sake  of  telling  it,  but,  by  the  way,  as  he  pictures  the 
various  relations  set  up  between  the  fact  and  fancy  in  this  inceptive 
process.  Thus,  at  the  same  time  that  we  are  shown  into  the  inner- 
most sanctum  of  the  poef  s  genius,  and  are  permitted  to  see  the  crea- 
tive forces  actually  at  woric,  the  story  is  made  known. 

Following  the  development  of  the  poef  s  inspiration,  it  is  found  to 
pass  from  the  external  to  the  internal.  The  first  step  in  the  process 
is  the  discovery  of  the  book,  and  the  unalloyed  C&cts  of  the  story  are 
told  just  as  they  appear  in  it.  Then,  as  the  poet*s  fuicy  works,  the 
charsicters  seem  to  become  real  and  living  personalities  to  him,  and 
he  describes  them  as  he  sees  them ;  but,  although  there  is  here  revivi- 
fication, the  poet  himself  is  still  the  visible  medium  between  the  char- 
acters in  the  story  and  the  reader  or  listener.  He  must  dive  deeper 
yet;  he  must  not  only  see  them  living  before  his  own  inner  vision, 
he  must  so  enter  into  their  natures  that  he  will  be  able  to  make  them 
speak  directly  to  others,  himself  entirely  out  of  sight, — the  artist  lost 
in  his  creations. 

In  this  manner,  we  are  gradually  led  from  an  interest  in  the  exter- 
nalities of  the  plot  to  an  interest  in  the  personality  of  the  characters 
themselves ;  an  interest  which  the  poet  proceeds  to  whet  by  giving  a 
sketch  of  those  who  are  to  reveal  themselves  in  the  future,  with  suf- 
ficiently tantalizing  glimpses  of  their  various  points  of  view.  The 
reader,  by  this  time,  is  in  some  such  state  of  expectation  as  one  might 
be  who  had  seen  photographs  of  a  great  actor  and  read  eulogiums 
upon  him,  and  was  about  to  experience  the  reality  of  that  which  had  so 
frequently  come  to  him  by  indirections. 

The  multiform  design  sketched  in  the  opening  book  unfolds  its  nicely 
adjusted  parts  in  the  remaining  books  in  harmonious  accord  with  this 
richly  modulated  overture. 

Leaving  the  personal  presence  of  the  modem  poet  of  highly  developed 
consciousness  towards  the  art  by  which  his  story  shall  take  on  the 
hue  of  life,  the  sensibilities  are  first  made  £uniliar  with  the  atmos- 
phere of  the  deed  that  was  done  in  Seventeenth-Century  Rome, —  the 
better  to  reach  the  quivering  heart  of  its  experience,  a  little  later,  —  by 
becoming  acquainted,  in  the  three  following  books,  with  the  three 
Romans  who  part  between  them  all  typical  public  opinion.  The 
environment  of  the  story  shown  in  this  first  group  of  three  books  is 
essentially  human  and  psychical.  It  is  not  at  all  an  environment  of  the 
insensate  physical  sort  usually  studied  by  the  scientist  who  investigates 
the  causes  of  social  phenomena.  It  consists  in  the  presentation  of  the 
influence  of  the  deed  upon  the  contemporary  Roman  citizen  and  of 
the  reflection  of  the  color  of  his  character  upon  the  story.    Through 


this  living  and  breathing  environment  of  the  old  Roman  murder  case, 
as  if  through  the  outer  rim  of  some  planet^s  atmosphere  which  is  that 
planet^s  specific  influence  upon  the  vagues  of  ether  about  it,  the  poem 
passes  on  to  penetrate  still  closer  toward  the  true  focus  of  the  action. 

In  the  second  group  of  three  books,  therefore,  the  three  main  actors 
in  the  story  successively  emerge:  Count  Guido  Franceschini,  first, 
since  he  is  its  prime  mover,  yet  most  external  and  material  factor; 
Giuseppe  Caponsacchi,  next,  the  counterforce  awakened  to  repel  his 
malevolent  activity;  and,  then,  Pompilia.  Passivity  personified,  she 
seems,  yet  is  the  inmost  effluence  in  the  poem  of  subtle  spiritual  in- 
sight and  good  will,  radiating  her  light,  —  as  if  she  were  indeed  some 
central  orb  of  whiteness,  —  upon  Caponsacchi  first,  because  he  stands 
closest  to  her  in  intuitive  moral  rectitude,  and  thence  diffusing  even 
through  the  outer  cycle  of  darkness  where  Guido  writhes  the  resistless 
rays  of  her  illumination. 

The  order  of  the  poem  turns  outward  again  with  the  third  group  of 
three  books.  Is  this,  also,  in  keeping  with  the  design?  Are  thesa 
learned  technicalities  of  the  two  lawyers  and  the  elaborate  balancing 
and  ethical  probing  of  the  Pope  the  natural  sequence?  Yes;  for  the 
racial  impulse  spoke  in  Pompilia^s  fidelity  to  her  motherhood  which 
dictated  her  escape  under  Caponsacchi^s  championship,  and  the  insti- 
tution of  the  fieimily  asserted  its  prerogative  in  the  marital  supremacy 
on  which  Guido  relied  to  sanction  his  slaughter.  The  issue  raised 
was  a  matter  of  social  concern  and  affecting  the  moral  order.  The 
poem  setting  forth  in  quest  of  life  and  truth  traces  the  pathway  of  these 
outgoing  beams  and  encompasses  them  with  their  nucleus  in  its  har- 
monious system.  Professional  equity,  robed  in  all  her  ceremonial 
trappings,  appears  accordingly  in  the  three  following  books.  On  the 
one  side  writes  the  husband^s  advocate,  with  pomp  of  legal  precedent, 
yet  in  laying  his  personal  impress  on  his  plea  speaks  most  vitally. 
On  the  other  side,  the  wife^s  advocate  upholds  the  moral  dominion  of 
the  Law,  yet  fastens  the  interest  closest  where  it  most  lay  for  him,  upon 
his  own  oratorical  ambition  and  dexterity.  Finally,  the  Church  herself 
officially  assays  the  value  of  each  act  and  claim,  but,  her  judgment  find- 
ing embodiment  and  instrument  in  the  wise  and  aged  Antonio  Pigna- 
telli,  the  test  of  his  personal  experience  is  applied  in  giving  sentence. 

The  artistic  warrant  for  the  second  appearance  of  Guido  in  the. suc- 
ceeding book  appears  as  an  inevitable  part  of  this  interknit,  socially 
conceived  work  of  art.  There  is  no  word  but  must  be  made  flesh  and 
subject  to  diverse  human  scrutiny.  The  sentence  of  death,  therefore, 
must  have  sentence  pronounced  upon  it  by  the  soul  most  intimate  with 
the  crime.     The  crowning  voice  of  "  The  Ring  and  the  Book,"  accord- 


fng^y,  is  the  voice  of  him  whom  society  has  condemned.  In  the  eleventh 
book)  at  his  eleventh  hour,  Guido  combats  the  sentence  and  caustically 
arraigns  civilization  and  religion,  speaking  now,  fittingly,  not  as  Count 
or  Franoeschini  but  without  privilege  of  name  and  race,  simply  as  the 
human  being, — Guido.  So,  at  the  close  of  the  book,  when  his  doom 
smites  his  soul  with  sudden  terror,  his  own  lips  utter  the  vital  admission 
needed  and  supply  the  only  fitting  dimax  for  such  a  poem. 

The  concluding  book,  as  Epilogue,  companions  the  opening  book  as 
Prologue.  Its  main  office  is  to  round  out  the  tale.  In  supplementing 
its  last  occurrences,  the  original  order  is  symmetrically  followed  in  little. 
The  Venetian  traveller  gives  the  town-talk,  much  as  the  three  Roman 
citizens  did,  and  provides  the  external  report  of  the  execution.  The 
two  lawyers  appear  again  to  furnish  the  social  or  institutional  outcome 
and  the  professional  glimpse  of  the  suit  for  Pompilia's  estate ;  and  the 
Augustinian  friar  stands  in  place  of  the  Pope  to  pronounce  the  moral 
summing  up  in  the  extract  from  his  sermon.  The  final  words  from 
the  poet^  own  mouth  turn  again,  as  at  the  outset,  upon  the  plan  and 
purport  of  his  art,  and  the  consecration  of  his  work  to  the  poet  who 
was  his  wife.  "  Ring  "  is  linked  to  "  ring,"  the  "  book  "  lying  between 
in  the  transposed  words  of  the  titles  of  the  first  and  last  books,  "The 
Ring  and  the  Book"  becoming  <<The  Book  and  the  Ring,"  and  the 
significance  of  the  name  of  the  poem  shaping  it  to  the  end. 

One  other  general  trait  of  the  work,  which  is  characteristic  of  its 
evolutionary  and  social  method,  is  especially  ministered  unto  in  the 
twelfth  book.  That  trait  is  its  historic  quality.  With  Guidons  cry  in 
the  ears,  with  the  dimax  of  the  poem  reached,  this  last  book  opens. 
Is  the  result  that  of  antidimax  or  redundancy  ?  "  Here  were  the  end," 
says  the  poet,  "  had  anything  an  end."  As  nothing  has  an  end,  there 
is  room  here  for  one  suggestion  more  to  that  effect,  and  relevantly,  too. 
An  image  of  the  fiery  event  resuscitated  in  the  poem  symbolizes  this 
perpetual  existency.  The  vivid  outburst  of  Guidons  deed  is  seen  at  its 
height,  and  then  it  is  shown  paling  and  dying  gradually  away  in  the. 
vastness  of  the  ages.  The  addition  of  the  twelfth  book  is  justified  by 
this  culminating  stroke  of  art,  revealing  the  central  event  of  the  poem 
as  but  an  inddent  in  the  larger  life  of  historic  civilization. 

This  historic  quality  is,  of  course,  not  such  as  usually  marks  the  work 
of  the  professional  historian.  It  depends  little  upon  exact  results  or 
patient  verification  of  evidence.  In  the  poem  dispassionateness  as  well 
as  partisanship  is  distrusted,  and  stress  is  put  on  genuineness  of  char- 
acter as  the  criterion  of  merely  relative  truth.  And  yet  a  poem  which 
is  made  to  bear  witness  that  human  testimony  is  false  and  "  feme  and 
estimation  words  and  wind,"  since  it  shows  to  the  life  how  essentia] 


to  each  man  is  his  own  character  and  peculiar  point  of  view,  reveals 
more  convincingly  than  any  but  the  most  modern  histories  the  interde- 
pendence and  necessary  coherence  of  all  points  of  view ;  the  continuous 
unity  of  the  social  life  thence  each  human  act  emerges  and  whence  it 
sinks,  forever  perpetuating  its  influence  through  oblivion ;  and  the  end- 
less beauty  of  personal  aspiration  toward  all  that  can  be  called  '^  truth.^ 

As  a  whole  it  appears,  then,  that,  unlike  most  poetic  plots,  with 
definitely  isolated  beginnings,  middles,  and  ends,  this  plot  seems  to  be 
composed  of  continuous  intersecting  unfoldings,  as  if  in  concentric 
orbits  round  a  centre  related  to  all  these  spheres  of  psychical  action  and 
influence,  and  having  outside  the  whole  an  imaginative  envelope  of 
unexplored,  indiefinite  space. 

Turning  now  —  afler  this  general  survey  of  the  structural  design  of 
the  poem,  first  as  projected  by  the  poet  in  his  prologue  and  then  as 
wrought  out  by  him  in  the  sequence  —  to  an  examination  of  the  char- 
acters created,  it  may  be  found  that  in  these,  too,  the  secret  of  the  art 
with  which  they  are  portrayed  consists  not  merely  in  their  separate 
vitality  but  in  their  lifelike  interrelations. 

The  truth  to  life  of  the  first  three  characters  is  apparently  meant  to 
be  more  typical  than  personal.  Yet  it  is  easy  to  see  the  individual 
within  the  class  in  either  Half-Rome,  The  Other  Half-Rome,  or  Ter- 
tium  Quid ;  and  their  double  quality  of  generalized  and  individualized 
life  is  peculiarly  well  adapted  to  give  the  impression  of  a  larger  social 
atmosphere  encompassing  the  central  event,  and  to  lead  on  to  the  more 
fully  individualized  characters  of  the  central  actors  in  whose  persons 
the  intensity  of  interest  is  condensed. 

The  typical  quality  of  the  three  Roman  citizens  is  not  abstract.  It 
does  not  mar  their  humanity.  Half-Rome  buttonholes  the  cousin  of 
the  jackanapes  who  is  too  civil  to  his  wife,  and  the  reader  feels  the 
touch,  too,  and  grows  absorbed  in  the  turn  the  gossip  gives  the  story. 
He  gathers  from  the  whole  account,  however,  not  merely  the  estimate 
of  the  characters  which  the  speaker  conceives,  but,  also,  from  that,  a 
cumulative  estimate  of  the  speaker^s  own  character,  and,  thence,  a  still 
further  estimate  of  the  doubtful  value  of  this  man's  evidence. 

Listen  next  to  The  Other  Half-Rome's  version  of  the  story ;  and  with 
whatever  eagerness,  acquired  by  the  habit  of  following  the  plot  of  inci- 
dent, one  may  pounce  upon  the  slight  divergences  in  the  facts  between 
this  and  the  preceding  version,  the  interest  in  the  plot  of  incident  soon 
gives  place  to  interest  in  the  plot  of  character.  The  estimate  of  the 
characters  peculiar  to  The  Other  Half-Rome's  point  of  view  first  absorbs 
attention ;  then  it  is  perceived  to  throw  light  on  his  own  character,  and 
finally  suspicion  £Uls  upon  the  value  of  his  evidence. 


Where  shall  the  real  truth  be  found  then?  is  the  question  that  now 
dominates  the  reader^s  mood.  At  this  stage  he  is  ready  to  rush  greedily 
upon  Tertium  Quid^s  account.  His  hopes  are  cunningly  fostered  by 
the  pretence  of  this  third  speaker  that  now  the  '^  authoritative  word^^  of 
«  persons  qualified  to  pronounce  ^*  will  at  last  prevail  above  '^  this  rab- 
ble Vbrabble  ^^  of  ^  reasonless  unreasoning  Rome.^^  But  no ;  he  is  only 
tantalized  more  acutely  by  the  sfjiritless  equipoise  of  Tertium  Quid. 
Thrown  back  now  upon  a  trust  in  his  own  wits  as  the  only  guide,  the 
reader  passes  the  poet^s  probation  toward  wisdom,  and  is  ripe  to  learn 
what  the  second  group  of  characters  —  the  three  actors  in  the  tragedy  — 
shall  successively  impart,  and  with  more  and  more  intimacy  of  each 
other,  themselves,  and  the  truth. 

Once  having  felt  this  threefold  progressive  illumination  of  the  story, 
there  is  no  end  to  the  fciscination  of  detailed  comparison.  Guidons, 
Caponsacchi^s,  and  Pompilia^s  characters,  as  they  appear. in  each  man^s 
eyes  and  in  their  own,  are  to  be  traced,  contrasted,  the  investigation 
narrowed  to  a  test  by  the  character  of  each  speaker  as  to  what  his 
special  evidence  on  each  point  is  worth,  and  crowned  with  a  divination 
of  how  the  whole  coheres. 

All  this  complexity  of  interest  results  primarily  from  a  perception  of 
the  characters  of  Half-Rome,  The  Other  Half-Rome,  and  Tertium  Quid. 
Half-Rome  is  seen  to  be  so  warped  by  one  idea  that  any  subject  he 
considered  would  wear  the  hated  color.  He  cannot  see  true  any  more 
than  Othello  could,  and  all  his  mental  aspirations  are  subject  to  the 
clumsy  obtuseness  and  despotic  cruelty  of  a  man  suspicious  of  the 
woman  nature,  because  it  is  foreign  to  his  own.  It  is  not  so  important, 
however,  that  certain  external  circumstances  be  gathered  about  him,  — 
namely,  that  he  is  a  jealous  husband  who  is  making  the  telling  of  this 
story  to  the  cousin  of  the  '^  jackanapes  ^^  an  excilse  to  cause  the  fellow 
to  fear  him,  —  as  it  is  that  the  character  of  the  man  enslaved  to  his 
prejudices  be  seen. 

The  Other  Half-Rome  is  swifter  witted  and  more  humane.  He  is 
too  subtle  and  strategic  himself  not  to  revel  in  the  finer  powers  of  in^ 
tuition  and  emotion.  His  nature  has  no  distrust  of  the  woman  nature, 
but  rather  an  instinctive  attraction  toward  it.  He  is  Violante's  best 
defender.  He  excuses  her  first  &lsity,  but  seeing  that  she  clears  her 
conscience  at  Pompilia^s  expense,  blames  her  for  confessing  the  lie. 
Some  acute  inkling  of  the  relativity  of  truth  seems  to  move  him  to  put 
loyalty  to  an  essential  truth  beyond  adherence  to  the  external  truth  of 
feet  Criticism  is  his  foible,  however,  and  everybody  gets  a  taste  of 
his  dissecting  blade.  Even  Pompilia,  his  adoration,  the  saint  with  the 
allurement  of  a  beautiful  girl,  does  not  escape  disparagement  for  her 


passivity.  The  ^'  helpless,  simple-sweety  or  silly-sooth,^^  he  says,  ^  how 
can  she  render  service  to  the  truth?  *^  (^5)  The  poor  opinion  he  ex- 
presses of  Pompilia*s  intellect  and  will  is  misleading,  but  natural  to  the 
shrewd  man  who  underrates  the  high  capacity  of  brain  and  nerve 
necessarily  accompanying  experienced  goodness.  Otherwise,  he  has 
so  sympathetically  assimilated  Pompilia^s  version  of  the  story  that  his 
account  of  her  penetrates  closer  to  the  heart  of  the  matter  than  that  of 
any  other  of  the  outer  circles  of  characters.  His  vivisection  of  Guido 
is  particularly  keen  and  profitable  to  observe;  and  the  measure  of 
understanding  he  shows  for  Caponsacchi  is  not  a  little  remarkable  in 
view  of  his  latent  rivalry  with  one  whom  he  regards  as  an  ordinary  lover. 

Again,  with  this  speaker,  the  mere  circumstance  that  he  is  a  bachelor 
who  is  romantically  partial  to  pretty  women  and  ^'  the  side  the  others 
are  down  on,^*  is  not  in  itself  so  important  to  observe  as  that  with  all 
his  cleverness  he  is  not  a  master  of  his  bias. 

Tertium  Quid  is  obviously  the  man  of  pretence  to  social  prominence 
and  distinguished  intellect.  He  is  witty,  graphic,  and  sophisticated  ; 
a  specialist  in  worldliness,  which  qualifies  him  to  judge  as  an  expert  in 
the  case ;  but  his  deft  reconstruction  of  its  twists  and  turns  feels  its  way, 
subserviently,  after  all,  toward  that  neutral  somewhat  which  will  be  ac- 
cepted as  the  "  safe  "  view  of  the  conservative  class.  The  upshot  of 
his  specialistic  investigation,  in  spite  of  the  dexterity  of  its  incidental 
episodes,  is  disappointing  in  making  no  point  but  the  minor  one  against 
torture.  Its  main  conclusion  b  equivocal  because  it  has  to  steer  its 
course  between  a  disdain  of  ^^  plebs,  the  commonalty  ^^  and  a  supine 
regard  for  "  quality  "  not  compatible  with  the  unity  of  humanity.  The 
actual  conclusion  to  be  drawn  is  that  horror  of  the  ^'  mob  '^  is  the  main 
dependence  to  prove  superiority  over  it.  At  the  impotent  close  of  the 
deft  harangue,  when  "Excellency"  and  "  Highness"  show  themselves 
human  enough  to  be  bored  by  much  talk  to  no  purpose,  they  fare  no 
better  than  "  plebs "  in  Tertium  Quid's  eyes,  and  he  styles  them,  be- 
tween his  teeth,  "  the  two  idiots  here."  The  reader  is  led  to  cap  his 
conclusfon  with  another,  remembering  <he  gage  offered  at  the  start  — 

Favored  with  such  an  audience,  understand!  — 
To  set  things  right,  why,  class  me  with  the  mob 
As  understander  of  the  mind  of  man ! " 

Here  again,  then,  with  Tertium  Quid,  as  with  the  two  other  t)rpical 
Roman  citizens,  it  is  important  not  merely  to  perceive  the  character  but 
judge  the  pretensions,  and,  balancing  the  two,  see  how  much  the  evi- 
dence ts  worth. 


Flattering  clouds  of  suffering  and  manly  self-confidence  half  obscure 
Guidons  genuine  self  upon  his  first  appearance.  A  flood  of  daylight 
pours  upon  him  on  his  second.  To  know  the  secret  of  his  character, 
and  lay  the  true  stress  upon  its  relation  to  the  story,  appeal  must  be 
made  here,  from  the  Count  presumed  innocent  to  Guido  found  guilty. 
Holding  in  abeyance,  then,  the  first  plea  of  Count  Guido  Franceschini, 
it  may  be  compared  better  with  his  final  utterances  later,  when  nothing 
intervenes  between  the  man  and  death. 

A  peculiav  interest  attaches  to  Caponsacchi,  because  he  alone  of  all 
the  personages  that  revolve  about  the  central  tragedy  suffers  the  tort- 
ures of  a  severe  moral  struggle.  His  soul  is  first  awakened  by  Pom- 
pilia,  whose  sudden  influence  works  a  revolution  in  his  character,  and 
sows  the  seeds  of  a  development  only  curtailed  by  his  inevitable  priestly 
bias.  All  the  onlookers  ^gree  in  describing  him  as  a  mixture  of  priest 
and  courtly  gallant,  —  vowed  to  the  Church,  yet  a  favorite  in  the  social 

Under  these  circumstances  it  is  hardly  to  be  wondered  at  that  no 
one,  not  even  sympathetic  Other  Half-Rome,  can  believe  in  his  entire 
innocence  and  self-disinterestedness  in  rendering  aid  to  Pompilia. 
Sympathy  for  the  outraged  honor  of  Guido  blinds  Half-Rome  to  every 
other  consideration ;  but  the  rest  of  the  world  is  more  ready  to  condone 
the  sin  of  the  priest  than  to  believe  him  guiltless.  This  widespread 
feeling  is  reflected  in  the  paltering  decision  of  the  court,  —  not  to  exon- 
erate him,  but  to  deal  him  a  light  punishment.  What  could  world  or 
law-court  know  of  the  powerful  forces  latent  within  the  character  of  the 
worldling  priest,  or  of  the  influence  for  good  of  a  personality  so  intui- 
tively strong  as  that  of  the  youtnful  Pompilia!  Only  when  Caponsacchi 
comes  to  tell  his  own  story  is  the  real  truth  of  the  matter  discoverable. 
The  vision  of  Pompilia  with  her  '<  beautiful  sad  strange  smile  ^^  was  his 
first  true  revelation ;  her  face  became  for  him  "  God^s  own  smile,'^  and 
he  realized  there  were  greater  possibilities  in  life  and  in  religion  than  he 
had  ever  dreamed  of.  Henceforth  the  frivolous  side  of  his  life  became 
utterly  distasteful  to  him,  and  the  perception  of  his  duties  as  a  priest 
deepened.  Conscious  that  his  awakening  was  due  to  his  sudden  recog- 
nition in  Pompilia  of  a  purity  of  soul  he  had  never  before  experienced, 
his  trust  in  her  was  so  complete  that  he  at  once  saw  through  the  dia- 
bolical plan  of  Guido  to  entrap  Pompilia  and  himself.  So  strong  a 
nature  as  his,  once  aroused  to  an  understanding  of  the  seriousness  of 
duty,  would  be  apt  to  verge  toward  fuiatidsm.  He  would  confuse  the 
duty  to  his  earth-made  vows  with  a  larger  divine  duty,  especially  in  an 
age  when  religious  sentiment  placed  more  emphasis  upon  the  perform- 
ance of  the  letter  of  the  vow  than  upon  keeping  the  spirit  of  it  intact 


Only  so  can  his  hesitancy,  when  Pompilia  appealed  to  him  for  aid,  be 
explained.  His  struggle  was  threefold,  and  wavered  between  a  human 
desire  to  help  Pompilia,  a  desire  to  live  up  to  the  new  ideal  of  duty 
bom  within  him  by  Pompilia  herself,  and  a  desire  truly  to  sacrifice  him- 
self. This  last,  he  concludes,  can  best  be  accomplished  by  withstanding 
the  great  wish  of  his  heart  to  help  Pompilia,  —  a  conclusion  which,  com- 
bined with  his  desire  to  be  true  to  his  vows,  causes  him  to  decide  to 
leave  her  in  God^s  hands.  Another  visit  to  Pompilia  makes  him  under- 
stand that  he  himself  must  be  God^s  instrument.  He  accepts  the  charge 
somewhat  in  the  spirit  of  Prometheus,  who  ''  freely  sinned.^^  His  only 
sin,  however,  was  against  the  external  laws  of  the  Church.  He  cherished 
faithfully  the  spirit  of  his  vows,  not  only  because  he  must  be  true  to  his 
new-bom  ideals,  but  because  such  action  constituted  the  highest  homage 
^tHHild  offer  Pompilia.  He  dares  hardly  acknowledge  even  to  himself 
his  love  for  her,  largely  because  he  cannot  throw  off  entirely  the  priestly 
attitude  which  takes  for  granted  an  antagonism  between  an  earthly  love 
and  the  love  of  the  Church.  Though  he  pictures  the  possibilities  of 
a  life  outside  the  Church,  and  made  sacred  by  her  presence,  he  does 
not  let  himself  recognize  that  in  such  love  as  existed  between  them 
there  is  a  divine  element  transcending  all  earthly  vows,  and  destined 
to  have  its  fulfilment  in  eternity.  Earth  might  have  had  such  bliss  in 
store  for  him :  it  is  lost  forever,  and  duty  demands  that  he  shall  not 
even  regret  the  loss. 

*'  So  I  from  such  communion  pass  content.^^ 

But  his  heart  asserts  itself,  and  human  anguish  forces  from  him  the  cry, — 

'^ O  great,  just,  good  God!    Miserable  me!  ^^ 

He  is  indeed  a  Prometheus,  but  a  Prometheus  still  in  chains. 

His  speech  is  a  masterpiece  of  dramatic  writing,  reflecting  to  the 
life  his  complex  feelings.  Scorn  for  the  lawyers,  whom  he  scores  merci- 
lessly for  their  miserable  failure  in  the  guardianship  of  Pompilia,  when 
he  who  might  have  been  of  use  to  her  was  facetiously  adjudged  a 
"merry"  punishment  for  what  they  persisted  in  regarding  a  youthful 
escapade ;  loathing  of  Guido ;  anguish  at  the  news  of  Pompilia^s  death 
intensifying  his  love  for  her ;  but  against  any  expression  of  wAich  h< 
strives  fiercely,  lest  it  might  detract  from  the  perfect  sum  of  her  purity, 
— and  underneath  all  these  rending  human  passions,  the  struggle  ojf 
the  priest  to  maintain  his  priesthood  unsullied. 

There  was  a  law  in  force  in  the  ancient  Hindu  drama,  that  no  actor 
could  come  upon  the  stage  before  some  reference  had  been  made  to 
him  by  actors  already  on  the  stage.    The  effectiveness  of  such  a  method 


Browning  has  certainly  proved  in  ''The  Ring  and  the  Book.^  The 
reader  is  in  a  fever-heat  of  expectation  when  Pompilia  is  finally  intro- 
duced in  her  own  person ;  and  that  the  poet  has  succeeded  in  making  her 
not  only  fulfil  expectation,  but  surprise  us  with  her  transcendent  loveli- 
ness, is  alone  proof  of  his  masterly  genius.  She  has  appeared,  through 
the  medium  of  the  speakers,  in  the  preceding  monologues  in  the  like- 
ness, at  one  extreme^f  a  light,  frivolous,  even  depraved  girl ;  at  the 
other,  in  that  of  a  martyred  saint,  according  as  individual  bias  misun- 
derstands and  hates  her,  or  comprehends  and  reverentially  loves  her. 
Guidons  brutal  attitude  toward  her  as  his  wife  is  too  evident  for  his 
account  of  her  to  gain  any  credence  whatever ;  yet,  in  spite  of  himself 
there  are  references  to  her  in  his  speech  which  give  glimpses  of  her 
true  character,  just  as  if  her  nature  were  so  powerfiil  a  centre  of  truth 
that  it  must  perforce  shine  through  the  foulest  aspersions  of  her. 
Even  Half-Rome^s  opinion  of  her  does  not  appear  to  be  based  upon  an 
overwhelming  conviction  of  her  guilt,  but  rather  upon  the  determina- 
tion to  uphold  the  rights  of  the  husband  at  any  cost.  Did  Half-Rome 
forget  himself  for  the  moment,  when  he  presents  so  finely  the  picture 
of  Pompilia  trapped  at  Castelnuovo? 

''Her  defence?    This.    She  woke,  saw,  sprang  upright 
r  the  midst,  and  stood  as  terrible  as  truth.^ 

Such  passages  have  been  considered  a  lapse  from  Half-Rome  into 
Browning.  But  if  Half-Rome  be  conceived  to  base  his  arguments  on 
prejudice,  rather  than  conviction,  it  will  be  easy  to  imagine  him  carried 
away,  for  the  moment,  by  the  splendid  pluck  of  Pompilia,  and  falling 
into  this  sudden  show  of  S3rmpathy.  This  is  made  all  the  more  plausi- 
ble by  the  way  he  brings  himself  up  with  a  round  turn,  — 

"  But  facts  are  facts,  and  flinch  not ;  stubborn  things. 
And  the  question,  how  comes  my  purse 
r  the  poke  of  you  ?  admits  of  no  reply." 

If  glimpses  are  caught,  from  time  to  time,  of  Pompilia  as  she  really 
is,  even  from  her  enemies,  it  is  equally  true  that  her  friends  do  not 
give  an  entire  view  of  her  character.  We  saw  how  The  Other  Half- 
Rome  regarded  her,  so  "  silly-sooth  "  that  she  could  hardly  be  expected 
to  shed  any  light  on  the  bare  justice  of  the  situation.  It  may  be  ques- 
tioned whether  Caponsacchi  recognized  to  the  full  the  greatness  of  her 
character,  although  he  had  felt  the  influence  of  her  personality,  —  one 
that  convinced,  not  by  argument,  but  by  her  presence,  as  Walt 
Whitman  would  say.  He  certainly  did  not  understand,  in  their 
essence,  the  principles  that  guided  her,  or  he  would  not  have  suffered 


her  to  languish  a  day  longer  than  she  need  for  help,  while  he  settled 
upon  the  action  best  for  his  own  soul. 

There  is  no  moral  struggle  in  Pompilia^s  short  life,  such  as  that  in 
Caponsacchi^s.  Both  were  alike  in  the  fact  that  up  to  a  certain  point 
in  their  lives  their  full  consciousness  was  unawaJcened:  hers  slept, 
through  innocence  and  ignorance ;  his,  in  spite  of  knowledge,  through 
lack  of  aspiration.  She  was  rudely  awakened  by  suffering ;  he  by  the 
sudden  revelation  of  a  possible  ideal.  Therefore,  while  for  him,  con- 
scious of  his  past  failures,  a  struggle  begins ;  for  her,  conscious  of  no 
failure  in  her  duty,  which  she  had  always  followed  according  to  her 
light,  there  simply  continues  duty  according  to  the  new  light.  Neither 
archbishop  nor  friendly  ^^  smiles  and  shakes  of  head ''  could  weaken  her 
conviction  that,  being  estranged  in  soul  from  her  husband,  her  atti- 
tude toward  him  was  inevitable.  No  qualms  of  conscience  trouble  her 
as  to  her  inalienable  right  to  fly  from  him.  That  she  submitted  as 
long  as  she  did,  was  only  because  no  one  could  be  found  to  aid  her. 
And  how  quick  and  certain  her  defence  of  Caponsacchi,  threatened  by 
Guido,  when  he  overtakes  them  at  the  Inn!  As  she  thinks  over  it 
calmly  afterwards,  she  makes  no  apology,  but  justifies  her  action  as  the 
voice  of  God. 

"  If  I  sinned  so,  —  never  obey  voice  more 
O'  the  Just  and  Terrible,  who  bids  us  ^  Bear! ' 
Not  —  *  Stand  by ;  bear  to  see  my  angels  bear! ' " 

The  gossip  over  her  flight  with  Caponsacchi  does  not  trouble  her  as 
it  does  him.  He  saved  her  in  her  great  need ;  the  supposition  that  their 
motives  for  flight  had  any  taint  of  impurity  in  them  is  too  puerile  to 
be  given  a  thought,  yet  with  the  same  sublime  certainty  of  the  right, 
characteristic  of  her,  she  acknowledges,  at  the  end,  her  love  for  Capon- 
sacchi, and  looks  for  its  fulfilment  in  the  future  when  marriage  shall  be 
an  interpenetration  of  soiils  that  know  themselves  into  one.  Having 
attained  so  great  a  good,  she  can  wish  none  of  the  evil  she  has  suffered 
undone.  She  goes  a  step  farther.  Not  only  does  she  accept  her  own 
suffering  for  the  sake  of  the  final  supreme  good  to  herself  but  she  feels 
assured  that  good  will  fall  at  last  to  those  who  worked  the  evil. 

Of  all  the  characters  portrayed  by  Browning  in  this  poem,  Pompilia 
is  the  only  one,  not  even  excepting  the  good  old  Pope,  who  has  abso- 
lutely clear  vision.  She  stands  as  the  embodiment  of  that  higher  law 
which  works  behind  all  narrow-minded  conceptions  of  duty ;  she  grasps 
the  relations  of  evil  to  good  in  the  world,  and  her  large  charity  makes 
room  for  even  her  arch-enemy  in  the  healing  shadow  of  God.  Withal 
she  is  so  human  and  lovable.    Though  her  philosoDhy  is  profound,  it 


breaks  so  spontaneously  and  simply  from  her  lips  that  it  does  not 
give  the  impression  of  being  the  result  of  intellectual  pondering,  but  is 
like  the  natural  outflow  of  a  mind  that  had  reached  a  higher  plane 
of  consciousness  than  those  about  her. 

The  sole  point  in  which  her  feeUng  appears  slightly  to  darken  her 
perception  is  with  regard  to  Caponsacchi,  of  whose  moral  struggle  she 
does  not  seem  to  be  aware,  for  she  attributes  to  him  the  same  intuitive 
vision  possessed  by  herself.  His  own  account  and  hers  of  his  reply  to 
her  when  she  '^  called  him  to  her  and  he  came  '^  is  a  striking  example 
of  this.  He  says,  ^'  It  shall  be  when  it  can  be.^^  She  makes  him  say 
simply, ''  I  am  yours."  It  is  quite  possible,  however,  that  she  knew  his 
inmost  soul  better  than  he  did  himself,  and  caught  its  meaning  rather 
than  his  words.  Pompilia^s  conception  of  him  is  perhaps  the  true 
Caponsacchi,  while  in  his  account  of  himself  we  get  Caponsacchi  en- 
tangled in  a  mesh  woven  of  inherited  convention.  May  we  not  vent- 
ure to  imagine  that  Pompilia^s  dying  message  to  him  at  last  set  him 
free,  and  that,  henceforth,  he  would  acknowledge  and  accept  a  present 
and  future  for  their  two  souls  of  love  infinitely  exalted,  nor  any  longer 
look  back  upon  an  unrealized  earthly  love  ? 

After  the  intense  concentration  of  emotion  in  these  two  monologues, 
the  speeches  of  the  two  lawyers  furnish  a  relief  that  may  be  compared 
to  the  effect  of  a  Shakespearian  scene  in  which  the  '<  base  mechanicals  " 
figure.  De  Archangelis  and  Bottinius  are  not  much  more  profound  in 
their  reasoning  than  Bottom  the  weaver,  but  their  poverty  in  wisdom  is 
bolstered  up  by  an  immense  deal  more  of  learning  and  an  intellectual  cun- 
ning in  the  use  of  it  which  produces  at  least  a  '^  swashing  outside."  To 
them  a  murder  case  is  just  so  much  grist  for  the  legal  mill.  The  desire  to 
find  the  truth  and  have  justice  rendered  ft  no  part  of  their  programme. 
The  ambition  of  each  is  to  gain  his  case  and  outwit  his  opponent  by 
building  up  a  defence  on  some  legal  quibble.  There  is  not  a  more 
brilliant  example  of  searching  sarcasm  in  literature  than  in  the  portrayal 
of  this  brace  of  lawyers,  hitting  not  only  at  these  easily  recognizable 
types,  but  at  the  institution  of  law  itself  as  at  present  constituted. 

The  pettifogging  soul  of  De  Archangelis  warms  to  the  task  of  prov- 
ing a  guilty  man  justified  in  his  guilt.  He  is  quite  invincible  when 
marshalling  his  forces  of  precedent,  provided  it  first  be  admitted  that 
citations  of  precedent  constitute  argument ;  but,  if  driven  to  rely  on  his 
own  reasoning  powers  for  a  point,  he  flounders  pitifidly.  Yet  we  can- 
not altogether  despise  this  representative  of  the  law,  because  of  his 
absorbing  interest  in  his  little  son,  whom  he  must  have  loved  devotedly 
if  there  is  any  truth  in  the  quaint  little  German  sa3dng,  '<  Much-loved 
children  have  many  names."    One  suspects  that  some  of  his  inanities 


in  argument  may  have  been  due  to  his  abstraction  over  the  coming 
birthday  feast. 

The  egotism  of  De  Archangelis  pales  before  that  of  Bottinius  pictur- 
ing himself  —  the  centre  of  admiring  judges  and  audience,  —  while  he 
paints  with  artist-hand  a  true  picture  of  the  sainted  Pompilia.  His 
method  of  presenting  the  truth  is  to  imagine  Pompilia  and  Caponsacchi 
guilty  of  lower  depths  of  moral  depravity  than  even  Guido  could  have 
accused  them  of;  and  then  to  try  to  justify  his  interpretation  of  their 
actions  by  defending  Pompilia  on  the  ground  that  she  committed  small 
sins  to  save  Guido  from  a  greater  sin ;  and  Caponsacchi  on  the  ground 
that  he  followed  out  natural  tendencies.  Bottinius  has  the  instincts  of 
a  criminal  lawyer,  and  when  given  a  case  where  the  evidence  proves  too 
easily  the  innocence  of  his  client,  his  ingenuity  must  find  vent  in  argu- 
ing white,  black,  and  then  whitewashing  the  blackness  he  has  himself 
created.  At  the  end  he  has  evidently  convinced  himself,  if  no  one  else, 
that  all  the  calumnies  he  was  only  going  to  imagine  true  are  indeed 
true,  and  that  he  has  succeeded  in  glossing  them  over  so  as  to  make 
them  appear  virtues.  Then,  with  an  effrontery  that  reveals  the  depths 
of  his  moral  obliquity,  he  declares  that  he  has,  through  painting  Pom- 
pilia^s  virtue,  proved  Guidons  crime.  Pompilia's  confession  almost  up- 
sets his  devious  methods  of  proving  her  purity ;  but  he  is  equal  to  the 
occasion  and  declares  it  a  lie  which  adds  one  more  grace  to  her  char- 
acter,—  the  grace  of  perjuring  herself  to  save  Guide's  soul. 

The  character  of  the  '^  good  old  Pope  "  is  somewhat  difficult  to  ana- 
lyze, since  he  seems  to  be  a  composite  of  two  historical  popes,  Innocent 
XI.  and  Innocent  XII.,  combined  with  a  special  individuality,  created 
for  him  by  Browning,  made  up  of  mental  traits  quite  consistent  with  the 
time,  and  others  which  belong  to  the  nineteenth  century,  if  not  peculiarly 
to  Browning  himself. 

Taking  him  as  we  find  him,  sprung  fiilly  endowed  from  the  brain  of 
the  poet,  he  is  pre-eminently  a  man  actuated  by  the  most  sincere  desire 
to  find  the  truth  and  deal  out  justice,  and  in  his  earnest  dignity  furnishes 
a  refreshing  contrast  to  the  shallow  lawyers. 

He  is,  however,  human,  and  feels  the  necessity  of  assuring  himself 
that  the  safety  of  his  own  soul  will  not  be  jeopardized  by  his  decision 
to  condemn  to  death  Guido  and  his  associates.  He  states  a  profound 
truth  when  he  decides  that  God  will  look  upon  the  sincerity  of  his  inten- 
tion, even  should  he  in  his  human  ignorance  make  a  mistake. 

There  are  no  finer  passages  in  the  poem  than  those  in  which  he  ren- 
ders his  judgments  upon  the  various  actors  in  the  tragedy.  With  ter- 
rible keenness  of  vision  he  dissects  Guido's  motives, — his  avarice,  his 
deceit  out  of  which  all  his  crimes  grew.    Yet  even  here  the  fallibility 


of  the  human  mind  asserts  itself.  Though  he  shows  the  most  exquisite 
appreciatio,n  of  Pompilia,  and  recognizes  her  intuitive  perception  of  the 
higher  law,  he  does  not  quite  realize  whither  this  intuitive  faculty  car- 
ried her.  He  commends  her  for  her  submission  to  her  husband  until 
the  higher  duty  of  motherhood  bade  her  rebel,  evidently  unconscious 
that  she  never  acknowledged  any  obedience  to  Guido,  but  simply  sub- 
mitted because  circumstances  forced  her  to  do  so.  Pompilia,  herself,  is 
careful  to  make  this  plain  when  she  says,  — 

'^  Now  understand  here,  by  no  means  mistake! 
Long  ago  had  I  tried  to  leave  that  house.^' 

He  passes  over  also  her  confession  of  love  for  Caponsacchi,  which  it 
seems  hardly  probable  he  would  approve  if  he  had  noticed  it,  since  he 
considered  one  of  Caponsacchi^s  chief  glories  the  withstanding  of  the 
temptation  to  love  Pompilia.  He  also  admires  Caponsacchi  for  his 
^Championship  of  God,  at  first  blush,"  when  he  sprang  to  rescue  Pom- 
pilia. He  is  quite  oblivious  of  the  fact  that  Caponsacchi  took  some 
time  to  decide  whether  he  would  not  be  obeying  the  voice  of  God  to 
more  purpose  if  he  did  not  rescue  the  "  martyr-maiden."  The  enthusi- 
asm of  the  Pope  for  these  two  really  blinds  him  a  little  to  the  realities 
of  the  case,  and  results  in  his  admidng  them  both,  especially  for  some- 
thing they  did  not  do.  The  inconsistencies  which  may  arise  from  a 
recognition  of  truth  in  conflict  with  obedience  to  convention  is  shown 
when  the  Pope,  in  spite  of  his  admiration  for  Caponsacchi,  would  have 
him  punished  because  he  broke  the  laws  of  the  Church.  These  are  the 
touches  which  place  the  Pope  along  with  the  other  characters  of  the 
book  as  a  really  dramatic  portraiture,  while  his  grief  at  the  lust  for  gold 
he  everywhere  discovers  suits  well  enough  with  the  historical  accounts 
of  Innocent  XH.,  whose  energies  were  spent  in  trying  to  reform  abuses 
growing  out  of  the  selfish  scramble  for  wealth  rife  at  that  time.  But 
when  the  Pope  philosophizes  upon  the  basis  of  his  £cdth,  upon  evil  and 
doubt,  he  takes  a  long  leap  forward.  Going  beyond  that  eighteenth  cen- 
tury, which  the  poet  makes  him  look  forward  to  as  an  age  of  revivify- 
ing doubt  destined  to  give  birth  to  a  new  faith,  he  reveals  in  his  own 
convictions  what  that  new  faith  will  become  in  the  nineteenth  cen- 
tury, namely,  a  belief  in  a  personal  revelation  of  divine  love  to  every 

There  is  a  curious  difference  between  Guidons  first  monologue  and 
his  second  one.  His  character  must  necessarily  appear  in  both.  Why 
is  it  truer  in  the  last?  In  both  he  assumes  various  plausible  shapes, 
and  lays  claim  to  heroism,  but  reveals  the  skulking  soul.  When  the 
two  messengers  enter,  as  earlier  when  he  addressed  his  judges,  his  first 


impulse  is  to  ingratiate  himself  by  a  flattery  of  rank  that  will  serve  to 
insinuate  his  own  claim  to  social  privilege.  After  he  has  heard  why 
they  come  to  him  and  what  message  they  bring  him  from  the  Pope, 
then  it  is  as  if  some  outer  bodily  integument  which  he  had  himself  sup- 
posed, until  now,  to  be  a  veritable  part  of  him,  slipped  away,  and  left 
his  inner  nature  intact  and  able  to  betray  itself  more  clearly.  Guidons 
truth  to  himself  flares  out,  now  that  life  must  leave  him,  with  a  sudden 
fierce  perception  of  the  life  still  within  him,  that  has  made  him  what  he 
was  and  now  makes  him  strong  to  answer  the  Pope's  sentence  —  "  *  Be 
thou  not!'  by*  Thus  I  am!'"  The  best  possible  explanation  of  the 
criminal  is  —  In  my  crime  spoke  my  nature.  His  best  possible  justifi- 
cation for  reading  his  own  nature  into  all  other  men's  natures  is  the 
warrant  they  themselves  give  him  to  do  so.  Half-Rome  has  substan- 
tially the  same  theory  of  society  and  marriage  as  that  on  which  Guido 
based  hLs  life  and  justified  his  slaughter.  So  has  Bottinius  and  Ter- 
tium  Quid.  Guido,  in  his  first  smooth,  deferential  monologue,  rested  his 
confidence  in  his  safety  on  this  plea :  I  am  a  loyal  servant  of  Church 
and  Law,  a  pillar  of  society!  "Absolve  thou  me,  law's  mere  execu- 
tant!" Through  me  bring  in  force  again  the  wholesome  household 
rule  — 

"Husbands  once  more  GcJd's  representative. 
Wives  like  the  typical  Spouse  once  more,  and  Priests 
No  longer  men  of  Belial." 

In  his  last  speech,  this  pretence  of  serving  "  public  weal,  which  hangs 
to  the  law,  which  holds  by  the  Church,"  having  been  knocked  from 
under  him  by  the  stroke  of  his  death-sentence,  he  falls  back  merely  on 
his  own  nature.  The  stealthy  cunning  lashes  out  into  unbridled  feroc- 
ity. The  tiger-cat  that  "  whined  before,  and  pried  and  tried  and  trod 
so  gingerly "  has  done  with  useless  wariness  and  openly  attacks  first 
the  Church  he  served,  and  then  the  Civilization  and  Society  for  which 
he  finds  he  risked  his  head.  Capable  for  an  instant,  at  least,  of  conceiv- 
ing "  a  careless  courage  as  to  consequences,"  and  of  exercising  sincerely 
a  curiosity  that  bids  him  turn  over  and  over  again  the  theories  he  acted 
on  to  see  the  true  reason  for  his  failure,  the  real  Guido  arouses  a  new 
interest.  The  character,  supposed  to  be  merely  mean  and  tricky,  shows 
an  inherent  self  inside  the  mask.  An  element  of  grandeur  appears  in 
the  hard  consistency  and  implacable  heart  with  which  this  self-styled 
victim  of  Society  arraigns  the  judgment  he  falls  beneath.  If  his  help- 
lessness stir  a  thrill  of  pathos  finally,  the  art  of  the  poet  will  have  fin- 
ished its  vital  reconstruction  and  redeemed  the  villain  in  Guido  to 
human  brotherliness. 


Nobles  and  men  of  power  make  common  cause,  against  the  unconsid- 
ered mass  of  men,  to  gain  unharmed  their  pleasure.  This  is  one  of 
Guide's  first  principles.  "Manly  men"  who  own  a  wife  hold  their 
right "  with  tooth  and  nail."  This  is  another  of  Guido's  first  princi- 
ples. They  suffice  to  show  him  his  innocence.  Right  as  an  abstract 
conception  or  a  moral  test  has  not  occurred  to  him.  A  right  as  a  privi- 
lege exercised  by  whosoever  has  title,  wealth,  or  strength,  he  under* 
stands  and  illustrates  in  the  story  of  Felice.  There  were  Popes  then, 
too,  he  maintains;  not  such  as  this  one.  "Why  do  things  change? 
Wherefore  is  Rome  un-Romed?"  Guido  accuses  Society  of  moral 
progress,  without  knowing  what  moral  progress  means,  and  condemns 
it,  like  any  other  grumbler  who  suffers  from  a  change,  for  the  newness 
of  its  virtue.  He  considers  it  a  pretence,  of  course,  —  a  fall  from  grace 
in  Gospel  and  in  Law,  —  and  blames  himself  merely  for  the  blunder  of 
calculating  that  their  action  would  be  consistent. 

To  this  nature,  arrogating  his  time-honored  right  to  rule  by  force  or 
guile  those  he  counts  his  creatures,  Pompilia  speaks  for  the  new  indi- 
vidual right  the  one  effective  word.  The  leaven  of  her  "  self-posses* 
sion  to  the  uttermost "  is  shown  at  its  work  in  Guido's  account  of  her 
as  the  stumbling-block  in  his  path.  Not  Caponsacchi  himself  has 
gained  so  adequate  a  conception  as  Guido  has  of  Pompilia's  forceless 

Guido's  ugly  picture  of  his  relations  toward  his  son  supplies  the  right 
contrast  to  make  the  beauty  of  Pompilia's  motherliness  more  convinc- 
ing. His  notion  of  ^therhood  falls  before  her  influence  as  fell  his 
notions  of  citizenship  and  husbandhood.  The  contrast  is  not  merely 
pointed  between  recreant  fatherhood  and  noble  motherliness :  it  sym- 
bolizes the  good  and  evil  social  influences  this  wife  and  husband  repre- 
sent. Of  this  Guido  is  unaware,  but  he  lays  his  defeat  to  Pompilia; 
and  through  her,  by  means  of  the  push  of  her  influence  upon  him,  on 
Caponsacchi,  on  the  Pope,  and  on  the  Pope's  sentence,  his  whole  con- 
ception of  life  begins  at  last  to  quake. 

At  the  climax  of  the  poem,  through  the  revelation  of  Guido's  nature, 
the  two  forces  stand  in  open  opposition.  If  something  come  now  to 
check  Guido's  voluble  rhetoric,  shrivel  through  the  human  testimony 
and  disclose  the  human  fact,  if  the  Pope's  sentence  —  Pompilia's  instru- 
ment—  complete  the  moral  battle-shock  between  the  two,  and  hurl 
Guido  on  from  the  perception  of  blunder  to  a  feeling  of  need,  one  cry 
of  trust  in  the  strength  of  human  goodness  will  be  enough  to  proclaim 
its  triumph  over  human  evil.     It  comes,  — 

"God,  .  .  . 
Pompilia,  will  you  let  them  murder  me?" 


In  characterizing  Guido  thus,  the  poet  has  brought  the  entire  plot  o/ 
tragic  incident,  interwoven  character,  and  dramatically  expressed  moral 
motive  to  a  focus. 

The  style  of  The  Ring  and  the  Book^^  is  singularly  clear,  in  spite 
of  the  colloquialisms,  archaisms,  historical  and  classical  allusions,  and 
Latin  phrases  that  abound.  If  they  were  judged  as  belonging  to  the 
whole  poem,  and  that  were  considered  as  if  it  were  a  single  subjective 
utterance,  they  might  make  it  seem  uncouth.  But  if  they  be  referred  to 
their  appropriate  places  in  the  course  of  the  talk  of  the  various  characters, 
whose  monologues  constitute  the  story,  they  will  readily  reveal  their  fit- 
ness in  a  work  that  blends  the  traits  of  poem,  drama,  and  novel.  Collo- 
quialisms, for  instance,  in  the  speech  of  such  worldly  townsmen  as  are 
here  presented,  obviously  belong  to  any  vital  transcription  of  everyday 
talk.  It  may  be  a  question  how  far  a  modern  poet  is  justified  in  counting 
upon  the  use  of  obsolete  and  archaic  English  words  to  breathe  an  Italian 
seventeenth-century  aroma.  However  that  may  be,  it  is  evidently  an 
intention  that  accounts  for  them.  Such  historical  allusions  as  appear  in 
the  frequent  mention  of  Molinism  seem  intended,  also,  to  add  their  minute 
touch  to  the  efiect  of  a  historical  environment  about  this  particular  event 
in  the  life  of  Rome,  which  Browning  sought  to  give,  as  already  indicated, 
by  placing  an  outer  circle  of  characters  about  his  central  group.  The 
classical  allusions  mainly  appear  in  the  monologues  of  speakers  with 
some  pretence  to  the  pagan  scholarship  Italy  had  loved  from  the  days 
of  the  Renaissance.  It  is  amusing  to  see  Half-Rome  ape  this  gentle- 
manly habit  and  leave  a  blank  in  his  speech,  through  an  attempt  to  deco- 
rate it  with  still  another  pagan  god  whose  name  &ils  him.  Bottinius 
and  Guido  are  more  apt.  The  recurrence  of  favorite  allusions  perhaps 
marks  a  literary  custom  of  the  time,  which  Browning^s  reading  had 
noted.  The  pomp  of  Latin  to  which  their  profession  obliges  the  law- 
yers is  so  whimsical,  as  well  as  fitting,  that  finding  fault  with  it  is  grace- 
less criticism,  the  more  so,  since  the  poet  has  made  his  base  professionals 
give  a  humorous  free-hand  English  version  which,  while  it  doubly  de- 
lights the  Latinist,  does  not  leave  the  English  reader  in  the  dark. 

Lyric  outbursts  of  exquisite  beauty  occur  only  where  the  mood  befits 
them,  when  the  speaker  is  noble  in  character  and  stirred  to  a  high  devo- 
tion. The  dedicatory  lines  to  "  Lyric  Love,"  passages  put  in  Caponsac- 
chi^s  mouth,  and  much  of  Pompilia^s  utterance,  move  to  this  smoother 
music.  Again,  in  Guidons  second  monologue,  there  is  a  savage  directness 
almost  lurid  with  dramatic  force,  or  there  is  an  impulsive  throbbing 
delicacy  in  Caponsacchi^s  outflow,  or  on  the  Pope^s  lips  a  brooding 
sereneness.  Everywhere  the  fluent  diversity  is  subject  to  the  beck  of 
the  dramatic  wand. 


The  work  as  a  whole  has  been  accused  of  inordinate  length.  Closer 
study  of  it  may  show  that  every  word  is  needed  for  the  proper  elabora- 
tion of  the  characters.  It  has  been  claimed,  too,  that  some  one  or 
other  of  the  characters  might  be  spared,  but  even  after  those  to  spare 
had  been  agreed  upon,  a  fuller  consideration  might  reveal  that  all,  with- 
out exception,  fall  into  the  places  intended  for  them,  and  that  on  their 
interlacing  support  grows  the  design  which  distinguishes  the  poem. 

Charlotte  Porter. 
Helen  A.  Clarke. 
May  II,  1897. 


The  Ring  and  the  Book.  Vol.  I.,  Nov.  1868;  Vol.  II.,  Dec.  1868; 
Vol.  III.,  Jan.  1869;  Vol.  IV.,  Feb.  1869.  Three  books  m  each 
volume.     London :  Smith  &  Elder.     1868-69. 


Buchanan,  Robert.  Master  Spirits,  chap,  ix.,  ^'Browning^s  Master- 
piece," pp.  89-109.  London :  Henry  S.  King  &  Co.  1873.  (See 
"Athenaeum,"  below.) 

Burt,  Mary  E.  Browning's  Women,  chap,  viii.,  pp.  1 13-118.  Chicago : 
Charles  H.  Kerr  &  Co.     1887. 

Corson,  Hiram.  Introduction  to  Browning.  Passages  in  chap.  ii.  on 
Personality  in  The  Ring  and  the  Book,  especially  pp.  53-55.  Boston : 
D.  C.  Heath  &  Co.     1886. 

.    Primer  of  English  Verse.    Passage  on  Blank  Verse  of 

Ring  and  Book,  pp.  224-225.     Boston:  Ginn  &  Co.     1892. 

Dawson,  W.  J.  The  Makers  of  Modem  English,  chap,  xxxi.,  pp.  318- 
322.    New  York :  Thomas  Whittaker.     1890. 

Hodell,  Charles  W.  The  Ring  and  the  Book :  Its  Moral  Spirit  and 
Motive,  pp.  1-7 1.  [Ithaca,  Cornell  University.  Pamphlet,  privately 
printed.]     1894. 

Oliphant,  Mrs.  English  Literature  of  the  Victorian  Age.  Two  vols. 
Vol.  I.,  pp.  233-235.     London:  Perdval  &  Co.     1892. 

Orr,  Mrs.  Sutherland.  Life  and  Letters  of  Robert  Browning.  Two 
vols.  Passage  on  Mrs.  Browning's  relation  to  Pompilia.  Vol.  II., 
pp.  408-411.     Boston :  Houghton,  Mifflin  &  Co.     1891. 

Sharpe,  William.  Life  of  Robert  Browning.  Passage  in  chap,  xi.,  pp. 
1 1 3-1 27.     London :  Walter  Scott.     1 890. 

Stedman,  Edmund  C.  Victorian  Poets,  chap,  ix.,  pp.  334-336.  Bos- 
ton: Houghton,  Mifflin  &  Co.     1875. 

Symons,  Arthur.  Introduction  to  Study  of  Browning.  Passage  in 
section  17,  pp.  131-149.     London  :  Cassell  &  Co.     1887. 




Athenaeum  [Reviews].  R.  Buchanan.  (Same  revised  in  ^Master 
Spirits.^^)  Dec.  26,  1868.  pp.  875-876.  March  20,  1869.  pp.  399- 

Atlantic  Monthly  [Rev.].    Feb.  1869.    pp.  256-259. 

Chambers^  Journal  [Rev.].    Vol.  46.    July  24,  1869.    pp.  473-476. 

Christian  Examiner  [Rev.].  J.  W.  Chadwick.  Vol.  86.  (New 
Series  7).    March,  1869.    pp.  295-315. 

Dublin  Review  [Rev.].    Vol.  13,  New  Series.    1869.    pp.  48-62. 

Edinburgh  Review  [Rev.].    Vol.  130.    July,  1869.    pp.  164-186. 

Fortnightly  Review  [Rev.].    John  Morley.    Vol.  XI.    March,  1869. 

PP-  231-343- 
Gentleman^s    Magazine.    James   Thomson.    Vol.    251.    Dec.    1881. 

pp.  682-695.     [Cited  in  Introductory  Essay  of  present  volume.    See 

p.  v.] 
Macmillan's    Magazine   [Rev.].     J.    A.    Symonds.    Vol.    19.     Jan. 

1869.    pp.  258-262.    And  J.  R.  Mozley.    April,  1869.    pp.  544-552. 
Nation  [Rev.].    J.  R.  Dennett.    Vol.  8.    Feb.  1869.    pp.  135,  136. 
North   American  Review    [Rev.].    E.  J.   Cutler.    Vol.   109.    July, 

1869.    pp.  279-283. 
North  British  Review  [Rev.].    Vol.  51.     1870.    pp.  97-106. 
Poet-lore.    Ring  and  the  Book  Symposium:  Caponsacchi,  Henry  G. 

Spaulding ;  Pompilia,  Alice  Kent  Robertson ;  The  Pope,  Charles  C. 

Shackford ;  Some  of  the  teachings  of  The  Ring  and  the  Book,  F.  B. 

Hombrooke.    Vol.  I.    June,  and  July,  1889.    pp.  263-273  and  309- 

Quarterly  Review  [Rev.] .    Vol.126.    1869.    pp.  328-359. 
St.  James'  Magazine  [Rev.].    Vol.  23.     1869.    pp.  460-464. 
St.  Paul's  Magazine.     E.  J.  Hasell.     Vol.  7.     pp.  377-397.     Same 

article.  Eclectic  Magazine.     Vol.  76.     April,  1871.     pp.  400-412, 

and  Littell's  Living  Age.    Vol.  108.    pp.  771-783. 
Tinsley's  Magazine  [Rev.].    W.  B.    Vol.  3.     Dec  1868.    pp.  665- 


CO 2.  tutta  JajOaum  CrJ/nirialo 


(jruiao^ranccfcninL  ^ilfo^ 

(yJpPirno  con  la^cuc^/Ia^ne^aftri 

iflornana  J/cmicUiorurm. 

U)isputatur  an  ctguancfvjnarUi 

(Reduced  facsimile  of  Title-page  of  Beport  of  the  Trial  of  Ouido  FranceachinL) 



[Book  I.  places  the  plan  of  the  poem  before  the  reader,  and  shows  how  the  pur- 
pose of  the  poet  is  to  transmute  by  the  intermingling  of  fancy  with  crude  fact,  a  dry 
record  of  events  into  a  work  of  art,  and  thereby  gam  a  more  universal  truth  than 
lies  in  the  fact  alone.  The  finished  product  of  art  is  symbolized  as  the  Ring ;  the 
crude  fact  is  found  in  the  old  yellow  Book  from  which  first  a  bare  sketch  of  the 
story  is  given.  Next,  the  poet  sketches  the  story  as  he  imagines  it  after  his  fancy 
has  clothed  the  characters  with  living  objective  personality.  This  is  symbolized  as 
the  ring  with  the  alloy  of  fancy  added  that  it  may  be  fashioned  into  shape.  Still  it 
needs  the  final  spirt  of  acid  to  carry  off  the  alloy,  leaving  only  the  refashioned 
truth.  This  will  be  accomplished  by  bringing  all  the  characters  on  the  scene  to 
tell  their  own  stories.  The  poet  himself  will  disappear,  but  the  effects  of  his  fancy 
will  be  revealed  in  the  fashioning  of  the  characters.  Thus  to  the  truth  of  £act  is 
added  the  vitalizing  truth  of  art.] 



Do  you  see  thiift^Ring?^- 

'T  is  Rome-work,  made  to  match 
(By  Castellani's  imitative  craft  *) 
Etrurian  circlets  found,  some  happy  mom, 
After  a  dropping  April ;  found  alive 

Spark-like  'mid  unearthed  slope-side  figtree-roots  5 

That  roof  old  tombs  at  Chiusi :  ^  soft,  you  seei 
Yet  crisp  as  jewel-cutting.    There  's  one  trick, 

^  Mrs.  Browning  owned  such  a  ring.    After  and  used  by  ancient  workers  in  very  pure 

her  death  the  poet  always  wore  it  on  his  gold,    and    was    successful   in    reproducing 

watch-chain.    It  is  now  in  the  possession  of  many  antique  effects, 
their  son.  '  Chiusi:   the  ancient  Clusium   of  Lars 

*  Imitative  craft :  the  elder  Castellani  Porsenna,  capital  of  Etruria,  88  miles  from 
Fortunato  Piso  (d.  1865),  founderof  the  house  Florence.  To  the  east  of  the  modern  city  is 
of  Roman  jewellers  and  antiquarians  of  that  a  slope  called  the  Jewellers'  Field  {Campo 
name,  opened  a  studio  in  1826,  about  the  degli  Orefict)  from  the  relics  brought  to  light 
same  time  that  so  many  antique  jewels  were  there,  rarely  as  the  produce  of  the  tombs  or 
unearthed  in  Etruria.  He  turned  his  atten-  of  systematic  search,  but  of  accidental  dic- 
tion especially  to  the  rediscovery  of  the  covery,  especially  after  heavy  rains, 
chemical  and  mechanical   processes  known 

B  I 


(Craftsmen  instruct  me)  one  approved  device 

Andfbut  one,  fits  such  slivers  of  pure  gold 

As  this  was,  —  such  mere  oozings  from  the  mine^  lo 

Virgin  as  oval  tawny  pendent  tear 

At  beehive-edge  when  ripened  combs  o'erflow,  — 

To  bear  the  filers  tooth  and  the  hammer^s  tap : 

Since  hammer  needs  must  widen  out  the  round, 

And  file  emboss  it  fine  with  lily-flowers,  15 

Ere  the  stuff  grow  a  ring-thing  right  to  wear. 

That  trick  is,  the  artificer  melts  up  wa? 

With  honey,  so  to  speak;  he  mingles  gold 

With  gold's  alloy,  and,  duly  tempering  both, 

Effects  a  manageable  mass,  then  works :  20 

But  his  work  ended,  once  the  thing.a  ring. 

Oh,  there  's  repristination !  ^    Just  a  spirt 

O^the'proper  fiery  acid  o'er  its  face. 

And  forth  the  alloy  unfastened  flies  in  fiime ; 

White,  self-sufBcieht  now,  the. shape  renialnsy  25 

The  rondure  brave,  the  lilied  loveliness, 

Gold  as  it  was,  is,  shall  be  evermore : 

Prime  nature  with  an  added  artistry  — 

No  carat  lost,  and  you  have  gained  a  ring. 

What  of  it?    'T  is  a  figure,  a  symbol,  say ; 

A  thing's  sign :  now  for  the  thmg  signined. 



Do  you  see  this  square  old  yellow  Book,^  I  toss 

r  the  air,  and  catch  again,  and  twirl  about 

By  the  crumpled  vellum  covers,  —  P"*"*^  ^"idfi  faiT^ 

Secreted  from  man's  life  when  hearts  beat  hard. 

And  brains,  high-blooded,  ticked  two  centuries  since? 

Examine  it  yourselves!    I  found  this  book. 

Gave  a  lira  for  it,  eightpence  English  just, 

(Mark  the  predestination!)  when  a  Hand, 

Always  above  my  shoulder,  pushed  me  once,  40 

One  aay  still  fierce  'mid  many  a  day  struck  calm, 

Across  a  Square  in  Florence,  crammed  with  booths, 

Buzzing  and  blaze,  noontide  and  market-time. 

Toward  Baccio's  marble,* — ay,  the  basement-ledge 

O'  the  pedestal  where  sits  ana  menaces  45 

John  of  the  Black  Bands  with  the  upright  spear, 

'Twixt  palace  and  church,  —  Riccardi  where  they  lived, 

His  race,  and  San  Lorenzo  where  they  lie. 

>  Repristination  :  restoration  to  its  earlier  delle  Bande  Nere  (John  of  the  Black  Bands, 

nature.  father  of  Cosimo  de'  Medici) ,  by  Baccio  Bandi< 

*  Book  :  the  original  is  now  in  the  Library  nelli,  in  the  Piazza  San  Lorenzo,  between  the 

of  Balliol  College,  Oxford.  Palazzo  Riccardi  (the  palace  of  the  Medici) 

^  Baccio's  marble  :  the  statue  of  Giovanni  and  the  church  of  San  Lorenzo. 


This  book,  —  precisely  on  that  palace-step 

Which,  meant  for  lounging  knaves  o^  the  Medici,  50 

Now  serves  re-venders  to  display  their  ware,  — 

^Mongst  odds  and  ends  of  ravage,  picture-frames 

White  through  the  worn  eilt,  mirror-sconces  chipped, 

Bronze  angel-heads  once  Icnobs  attached  to  chests, 

(Handled  when  ancient  dames  chose  forth  brocade)  55 

Modem  chalk  drawings,  studies  from  the  nude, 

Samples  of  stone,  jet,  breccia,^  porphyry 

Polished  and  rouen,  sundry  amazing  busts 

In  baked  earth,  (broken.  Providence  be  praised!) 

A  wreck  of  tapestry,  proudly-purposed  web  60 

When  reds  and  blues  were  mdeed  red  and  blue. 

Now  offered  as  a  mat  to  save  bare  feet 

(Since  carpets  constitute  a  cruel  cost) 

Treading  the  chill  scagliola  ^  bedward :  then 

A  pile  of  brown-etched  prints,  two  crazie  •  each,  65 

Stopped  by  a  conch  a-top  from  fluttering  forth 

—  Sowing  the  Square  with  works  of  one  and  the  same 

Master,  the  imaginative  Sienese  ^ 

Great  in  the  scenic  backgrounds  —  (name  and  fiame 

None  of  you  know,  nor  does  he  fare  the  worse :)  70 

From  these  .  .  .  Oh,  with  a  Lionard  going  cheap 

If  it  should  prove,  as  promised,  that  Joconde  ^ 

Whereof  a  copy  contents  the  Louvre !  —  these 

I  picked  this  book  from.    Five  compeers  in  flank 

Stood  left  and  right  of  it  as  tempting  more  —  75 

A  dogseared  Spicilegium,*  the  fond  tale 

O'  the  Frail  One  of  the  Flower,  by  young  Dumas,'' 

Vulgarized  Horace  for  the  use  of  schools, 

The  Life,  Death,  Miracles  of  Saint  Somebody, 

Saint  Somebody  Else,  his  Miracles,  Death  and  Life,  —         80 

With  this,  one  glance  at  the  lettered  back  of  which. 

And  <^  Stall!  ^^  cried  I :  a  Ura  made  it  mine. 

Here  it  is,  this  I  toss  and  take  again; 
Small-quarto  size,  part  print  part  manuscript : 

rA  book  in  shape  but,  really,  pure  crude  fact  85 

Secreted  from  man^s  life  when*hearts  beat  hard. 
And  brains7"htgh^t6bded;  ticked  two  centuries  since. 
j  GiveTt'me  back!    The  thing  *s  restorative 
<  r  the  touch  and  sight. 

>  Breccia  :  bits  of  ttone  from  broken  walls.  Gioconda,   by   Leonardo   da   Vinci,   in   Ae 

>  Scagliola  :  maible  or  stone  flooring.  Louvre. 

*  Two  cranie  :  about  x|^.  *  SpiciUgiutn  :  a  book  of  selections  made 

*  TAe  imaginative  Sienese  .*    AdemoUo  from  the  best  writers. 

(seel.  364).  T  TAe  Frail  One  of  the  Flower:    La 

*  Joconde :  the  portrait  of  Mooa  1^99^  Pame  aux  Camellias. 


That  memorable  day, 
(June  was  the  month,  Lorenzo  named  the  Square)  90 

I  leaned  a  little  and  overlooked  my  prize 
By  the  low  railing  round  the  fountain-source 
Close  to  the  statue,  where  a  step  descends : 
While  clinked  the  cans  of  copper,  as  stooped  and  rose 
Thick-ankled  girls  who  brimmed  them,  and  made  place        95 
For  marketmen  glad  to  pitch  basket  down. 
Dip  a  broad  melon-leaf  that  holds  the  wet, 
And  whisk  their  faded  fresh.    And  on  I  read 
Presently,  though  my  path  grew  perilous 
Between  the  outspread  straw-work,  piles  of  plait  100 

Soon  to  be  flapping,  each  o'er  two  black  eyes 
And  swathe  of  Tuscan  hair,  on  festas  ^  fine : 
Through  fire-irons,  tribes  of  tongs,  shovels  in  sheaves. 
Skeleton  bedsteads,  wardrobe-drawers  agape. 
Rows  of  tall  slim  brass  lamps  with  dangling  gear, —  105 

And  worse,  cast  clothes  a-sweetening  in  the  sun : 
None  of  them  took  my  eye  from  off  my  prize. 
Still  read  I  on,  from  written  title-page 
To  written  index,  on,  through  street  and  street. 
At  the  Strozzi,  at  the  Pillar,  at  the  Bridge ;  no 

Till,  by  the  time  I  stood  at  home  again 
In  Casa  Guidi  by  Felice  Church, 
Under  the  doorway  where  the  black  begins 
With  the  first  stone-slab  of  the  staircase  cold, 
I  had  mastered  the  contents,  knew  the  whole  truth  115 

Gathered  together,  bound  up  in  this  book. 
Print  three-fifths,  written  supplement  the  rest. 
"  Romana  Homicidiorum  "  —  nay. 
Better  translate  —  "A  Roman  murder-case : 
Position  of  the  entire  criminal  cause  120 

Of  Guido  Franceschini,  nobleman, 
With  certain  Four  the  cutthroats  in  his  pay. 
Tried,  all  five,  and  found  guilty  and  put  to  death 
By  heading  or  hanging  as  befitted  ranks, 
At  Rome  on  February  Twenty  Two,  125 

Since  our  salvation  Sixteen  Ninety  Eight : 
Wherein  it  is  disputed  if,  and  when. 
Husbands  may  kill  adulterous  wives,  yet  ^scape 
The  customary  forfeit." 

Word  for  word, 
So  ran  the  title-page :  murder,  or  else  130 

Legitimate  punishment  of  the  other  crime. 
Accounted  murder  by  mistake, — just  that 

*  Festas  :  feast  days. 


And  no  more,  in  a  Latin  cramp  enough 

When  the  law  had  her  eloquence  to  launch. 

But  interfilleted  with  Italian  streaks  135 

When  testimony  stooped  to  mother-tongue,  — 

That,  was  this  old  square  yellow  book  about. 

^ow,  as  the  ingQt,  fre.the  ring  was  forged, 
Lay  gold,  ^beseech  youj^  hold  that  figure  fast!) 
So,  in  this  Dook  lay  absolutely  tnitl),  140 

Tanciless  fact,  the  documents  indeed. 
Primary  lawyer-pleadings  for,  against, 
Xhe  aforesaid  Five ;  re2  summed-up  circumstance 
Adduced  in  proof  of  these  on  either  side, 
Put  forth  and  printed,  as  the  practice  was,  145 

At  Rome,  in  the  Apostolic  Chamber's  type. 
And  so  submitted  to  the  eye  o'  the  Court 
Presided  over  by  His  Reverence 
Rome's  Governor  and  Criminal  Judge,  —  the  trial 
Itself,  to  all  intents,  being  then  as  now  150 

Here  in  the  book  and  nowise  out  of  it ; 
Seeing,  there  properly  was  no  judgment-bar, 
No  bringing  of  accuser  and  accused. 
And  whoso  judged  both  parties,  face  to  face 
Before  some  court,  as  we  conceive  of  courts.  155 

There  was  a  Hall  of  Justice ;  that  came  last : 
For  Justice  had  a  chamber  by  the  hall 
Where  she  took  evidence  first,  summed  up  the  same. 
Then  sent  accuser  and  accused  alike. 

In  person  of  the  advocate  of  each,  160 

To  weigh  its  worth,  thereby  arrange,  array 
The  battle.    'T  was  the  so-styled  Fisc  ^  began. 
Pleaded  (and  since  he  only  spoke  in  print 
The  printed  voice  of  him  lives  now  as  then) 
The  public  Prosecutor — "  Murder 's  proved ;  1 65 

With  five  .  .  .  what  we  call  qualities  of  bad, 
Worse,  worst,  and  yet  worse  still,  and  still  worse  yet ; 
Crest  over  crest  crowning  the  cockatrice. 
That  beggar  hell's  regalia  to  enrich 

Count  Guido  Franceschini :  punish  him!"  170 

Thus  was  the  paper  put  before  the  court 
In  the  next  stage,  (no  noisy  work  at  all,) 
To  study  at  ease.     In  due  time  like  reply 
Came  from  the  so-styled  Patron  of  the  Poor, 
Official  mouthpiece  of  the  five  accused  175 

Too  poor  to  fee  a  better,  —  Guido's  luck 
Or  else  his  fellows',  —  which,  I  hardly  know,  — 

^  Pitc  :  ue.  Counsel  for  the  Treasury,  or  Public  Prosecutor. 


An  outbreak  as  of  wonder  at  the  woiid, 

A  fiiry-fit  of  outraged  innocence, 

A  passion  of  betrayed  simplicity :  i8o 

^  Punish  Count  Guido?    For  what  crime,  what  hint 

O^  the  color  of  a  crime,  inform  us  first! 

Reward  him  rather!    Recognize,  we  say, 

In  the  deed  done,  a  righteous  judgment  dealt! 

All  conscience  and  all  courage, — there  ^s  our  Count  185 

Charactered  in  a  word ;  and,  what 's  more  strange, 

He  had  companionship  in  privilege. 

Found  four  courageous  conscientious  friends : 

Absolve,  applaud  all  five,  as  props  of  law, 

Sustainers  of  society! — perchance  190 

A  trifle  over-hasty  with  the  hand 

To  hold  her  tottering  ark,  had  tumbled  else ; 

But  that  ^s  a  splendid  fault  whereat  we  wink, 

Wishing  your  cold  correctness  sparkled  so! " 

Thus  paper  second  followed  paper  first,  195 

Thus  aid  the  two  join  issue — nay,  the  four. 

Each  pleader  having  an  adjunct.    ^  True,  he  killed 

—  So  to  speak — in  a  certain  sort  —  his  wife. 

But  laudably,  since  thus  it  happed!  ^^  quoth  one : 

Whereat,  more  witness  and  the  case  postponed.  200 

^^  Thus  it  happed  not,  since  thus  he  did  the  deed. 

And  proved  himself  thereby  portentousest 

Of  cutthroats  and  a  prodigy  of  crime. 

As  the  woman  that  he  slaughtered  was  a  saint. 

Martyr  and  miracle!  ^^  quoth  the  other  to  match :  205 

Again,  more  witness,  and  the  case  postponed. 

"  A  miracle,  ay  —  of  lust  and  impudence ; 

Hear  my  new  reasons! ^^  interposed  the  first: 

"  —  Coupled  with  more  of  mine! "  pursued  his  peer. 

'^  Beside,  the  precedents,  the  authorities! ''  210 

From  both  at  once  a  cry  with  an  echo,  that! 

That  was  a  firebrand  at  each  fox^s  tail 

Unleashed  in  a  cornfield :  soon  spread  flare  enough. 

As  hurtled  thither  and  there  heaped  themselves 

From  earth^s  four  corners,  all  authority  215 

And  precedent  for  puttinc;  wives  to  death. 

Or  letting  wives  live,  sinml  as  they  seem. 

How  legislated,  now,  in  this  respect, 

Solon  and  his  Athenians  ?  ^    Quote  the  code 

Of  Romulus  and  Rome  !  ^    Justinian'  speak!  220 

*  Solon,  etc.  :    Solon's  lawi  about  women  founder  of  Rome,  as  given  by  Plutarch,  for- 

"  were  of  the  itrangeit,"  tays  Plutarch,  for  bade  a  wife  to  leave  her  husband*  but  granted 

death,  heavy  fines,  and  small  fines  were  all  a  husband  power  to  turn  off  a  wife  for  coun- 

permissible  penalties  in  cases  of  adultery.  terfeiting  his  keys,  or  for  adultery. 

'  Codt  <if  Romuins :    the   code   of  the  *  yusttman :    the  Roman  emperor  (530^ 

THE  kiMG  AMD  THE  BOQtC.  7 

Nor  modern  Baldo  ^  Bartolo  *  be  dumb! 

The  Roman  voice  was  potent,  plentiful ; 

Cornelia  de  Sicariis  *  hurried  to  help 

Pompeia  de  Parricidiis ;  Julia  de 

Something-or-other  jostled  Lex  this-and-that ;  225 

King  Solomon  confirmed  Apostle  Paul :  * 

That  nice  decision  of  Dolabella,  *  eh  ? 

That  pregnant  instance  of  Theodoric,*  oh! 

Down  to  that  choice  example  i^Elian  ^  gives 

(An  instance  I  find  much  insisted  on)  230 

Of  the  elephant  who,  brute-beast  though  he  were, 

Yet  understood  and  punished  on  the  spot 

His  master^s  naughty  spouse  and  ^thless  friend ; 

A  true  tale  which  has  edified  each  child, 

Much  more  shall  flourish  favored  by  our  court !  235 

Pages  of  proof  this  way,  and  that  way  proof. 

And  always  —  once  again  the  case  postponed. 

Thus  wrangled,  brangled,  jangled  they  a  month, 

I  Nor  ever  was,  except  i'  the  Hrafns  p?  men,  240 

L  More  noise  by  word  of  mouth  than  you  hear  now — 
Till  the  court  cut  all  short  with  "  Judged^  your  cause.     " 
Receive  our  sentence!    Praise  God!    We  pronounce 
Count  Guido  devilish  and  damnable : 

His  wife  Pompilia  in  thought,  word  and  deed,  245 

Was  perfect  pure,  he  murdered  her  for  that : 
As  for  the  Four  who  helped  the  One,  all  Five — 
Why,  let  employer  and  hirelings  share  alike 
In  guilt  and  guilt's  reward,  the  death  their  due!" 

So  was  the  trial  at  end,  do  you  suppose?  250 

<< Guilty  you  find  him,  death  you  doom  him  to? 

Ay,  were  not  Guido,  more  than  needs,  a  priest, 

Priest  and  to  spare! "  —  this  was  a  shot  reserved ; 

I  learn  this  from  epistles  which  begin 

Here  where  the  print  ends,  —  see  the  pen  and  ink  255 

564)    upon  whose  Pandects,  539-533,  later        ^  Sohnum  confirmed  Paul :  Ecc.  Tii.  95; 

European  law  was  based.  x  Cor.  vii.  39,  xi.  3,  9;  Rom.  vii.  a. 

^  Baldo  :  an  eminent  professor  of  civil  law,         *  Decision  of  Dolabella  :  see  viii.  9x3. 
also  of  canon  law,  bom  in  1337.  *  Instance  of  Theodoric  :  the  Ostrogoth, 

*  Bartolo  :  an  erudite  Italian  jurist  (13x3-  in  letters  (Variae  Epistolae)  written  for  him 

X356)  associated  with  the  Emperor  Charles  V.  by  Cassiodorus:  "  For  even  brute  beasts  vin- 

in  codifying  laws.    To  him  is  attributed  the  dicate  their  conjugal  rights  by  force;   how 

"  BuUe  d'  Or/'  the  charter  of  the  German  much  more  man  who  is  so  deeply  dishonored,** 

constitution.  etc. 

>  Cornelia  de  Sicariis ^  Pompeia  de  Par-        ^  JElian  :  "  De  Animalium  NatttrB,"  zi. 

ricidiis  :  the  titles  of  Roman  laws  dealing  15. 
with  homicide  and  adultery. 


Of  the  advocate,  the  ready  at  a  pinch!  — 

"  My  client  boasts  the  clerkly  privilege, 

Has  taken  minor  orders*  many  enough. 

Shows  still  sufficient  chrism  upon  his  pate 

To  neutralize  a  blood-stain :  presbyter^  260 

Prima  tonsura,  subcUaconus^ 

Sacerdos,  so  he  slips  from  underneath 

Your  power,  the  temporal,  slides  inside  the  robe 

Of  mother  Church :  to  her  we  make  appeal 

By  the  Pope,  the  Church's  head!" 

A  parlous  plea,  265 

Put  in  with  noticeable  effect,  it  seems ; 
"  Since  straight,"  —  resumes  the  zealous  orator. 
Making  a  friend  acquainted  with  the  facts,  — 
"  Once  the  word  *clericality '  let  fall, 

Procedure  stopped  and  freer  breath  was  drawn  270 

By  all  considerate  and  responsible  Rome." 
Quality  took  the  decent  part,  of  course ; 
Held  by  the  husband,  who  was  noble  too : 
Or,  for  the  matter  of  that,  a  churl  would  side 
With  too-refined  susceptibility,  275 

And  honor  which,  tender  in  the  extreme. 
Stung  to  the  quick,  must  roughly  right  itself 
At  all  risks,  not  sit  still  and  whine  for  law 
As  a  Jew  would,  if  you  squeezed  him  to  the  wall. 
Brisk-trotting  through  the  Ghetto.*    Nay,  it  seems,  280 

Even  the  Emperor's  Envo^  had  his  say 
To  say  on  the  subject ;  might  not  see,  unmoved. 
Civility  menaced  throughout  Christendom 
By  too  harsh  measure  dezdt  her  champion  here. 
Lastly,  what  made  all  safe,  the  Pope  was  kind,  285 

From  his  youth  up,  reluctant  to  take  life, 
If  mercy  might  be  just  and  yet  show  grace ; 
Much  more  unlikely  then,  in  extreme  age, 
To  take  a  life  the  general  sense  bade  spare. 
'T  was  plain  that  Guido  would  go  scatheless  yet.  290 

But  human  promise,  oh,  how  short  of  shine! 
How  topple  down  the  piles  of  hope  we  rear! 
How  history  proves  .  .  .  nay,  read  Herodotus!' 

*  Pnthytert  etc. :  the  names  of  successive  they  are  sufficient  to  entitle  him  to  appeal  to 

orders  in  the  Roman  Church,  of  which  the  the  Pope,  as  head  of  the  Church, 
minor  ones  can  be  assumed  without  causing         *  Ghetto  :  the  Jews'  quarter  of  the  city, 
the  holder  to  cease  to  be  a  layman;  thus  (a         *  Herodotus  :  t.g.  the  stories  of  Croesus  or 

point  of  importance  in  Count  Guido's  case)  of  Xerxes, 
they  do  not  prevent  him  from  marrying,  yet 


Suddenly  starting  from  a  nap,  as  it  were, 

A  dog-sleep  with  one  shut,  one  open  orb,  295 

Cried  the  Pope's  *  great  self, — Innocent  by  name 

And  nature  too,  and  eighty-six  years  old, 

Antonio  Pignatelli  of  Naples,  Pope 

Who  had  trod  many  lands,  known  many  deeds, 

Probed  many  hearts,  beginning  with  his  own,  300 

And  now  was  far  in  readiness  for  God,  — 

T  was  he  who  first  bade  leave  those  souls  in  peace. 

Those  Jansenbts,  re-nicknamed  Molinists,^ 

('Gainst  whom  the  cry  went,  like  a  frowsy  tune. 

Tickling  men's  ears  —  the  sect  for  a  quarter  of  an  hour       305 

I'  the  teeth  of  the  world  which,  clown-like,  loves  to  chew 

Be  it  but  a  straw  'twixt  work  and  whistling-while, 

Taste  some  vituperation,  bite  away, 

Whether  at  marjoram-sprig  or  garlic-clove, 

Aught  it  may  sport  with,  spoil,  and  then  spit  forth)  310 

'^  Leave  them  alone,"  bade  he,  '^ those  MohnistsI 

Who  may  have  other  light  than  we  perceive. 

Or  why  is  it  the  whole  world  hates  them  thus  ?  " 

Also  he  peeled  off  that  last  scandal-rag 

Of  Nepotism  * ;  and  so  observed  the  poor  315 

That  men  would  merrily  say,  '^  Halt,  deaf  and  blind, 

Who  feed  on  fat  things,  leave  the  master's  self 

To  gather  up  the  fragments  of  his  feast. 

These  be  the  nephews  of  Pope  Innocent!  — 

His  own  meal  costs  but  five  carlines  *  a  day,  320 

Poor-priest's  allowance,  for  he  claims  no  more." 

—  He  cried  of  a  sudden,  this  great  good  old  Pope, 

When  they  appealed  in  last  resort  to  him, 

^"  1  have  mastered  the  whole  matter :  I  nothing  doubt. 

Though  Guido  stood  forth  priest  from  head  to  heel,  325 

Instead  of  as  alleged,  a  piece  of  one,  — 

And  further,  were  he,  from  the  tonsured  scalp 

To  the  sandaled  sole  of  him,  my  son  and  Christ's, 

Instead  of  touching  us  by  finger-tip 

As  you  assert,  and  pressmg  up  so  close  330 

Only  to  set  a  blood-smutch  on  our  robe,  — 

I  and  Christ  would  renounce  all  right  in  him. 

Am  I  not  Pope,  and  presently  to  die. 

And  busied  how  to  render  my  account, 

^  The  Pope  :    Innocent  XII.,  pope  from  was  declared  heretical  by  the  heads  of  the 

169X-X700.  Church.    Allusions  to  the  orthodox  dislike  or 

*  Molinists  :  followers  of  Miguel  Molinos,  dread  of  Molinism  at  this  time  recur  frequently 

a  Spaniard,  who  published  at  Rome  in  1675  a  in  this  poem. 

work  of  mystical  or  "  quietistic  "  theology*         *  Nepotism  :  favoritism  to  relationt. 
entitled  the  Guida  Spirituale  or  Spiritual         *  Carlines:    a  small   silver  coin,   worth 

Guide,  which  attracted  much  attention,  but  about  twopence. 


And  shall  I  wait  a  day  ere  I  decide  335 

On  doin^  or  not  doing  justice  here? 
Cut  off  his  head  to-morrow  by  this  time, 
Hang  up  his  four  mates,  two  on  either  hand. 
And  end  one  business  more! " 

So  said,  so  done  — 
Rather  so  writ,  for  the  old  Pope  bade  this,  340 

I  find,  with  his  particular  chirograph. 
His  own  no  such  infirm  hand,  Friday  night ; 
And  next  day,  February  Twenty  Two, 
Since  our  salvation  Sixteen  Ninety  Eight, 
—  Not  at  the  proper  head-and-hanging-place  345 

On  bridge-foot  close  by  Castle  Angelo, 
Where  custom  somewhat  staled  the  spectacle, 
('T  was  not  so  well  i'  the  way  of  Rome,  beside, 
The  noble  Rome,  the  Rome  of  Guidons  rank) 
But  at  the  city's  newer  gayer  end,  —  350 

The  cavalcadmg  promenading  place 
Beside  the  gate  and  opposite  the  church 
Under  the  Pincian  gardens  green  with  Spring, 
'Neath  the  obelisk  ^  'twixt  the  fountains  in  the  Square, 
Did  Guido  and  his  fellows  find  their  fate,  355 

All  Rome  for  witness,  and  —  my  writer  adds  — 
Remonstrant  in  its  universal  grief. 
Since  Guido  had  the  sufirage  of  all  Rome. 

fThis  is  the  bookfiil ;  thus  far  take  the  truth; 

\  The  untempered  gold,  the  fact  untampered  with,  360 

[TQie  mere  nng-metal  ere  the  ring  be  made! 

""And  what  has  hitherto  come  of  it  ?    Who  preserves 

The  memory  of  this  Guido,  and  his  wife 

Pompilia,  more  than  AdemoUoVname,. 

The  etcher  of  those  prints,  two  crazie  ea.chj^  365 

Saved  by  a  stone  from  snowing  broad  the  Square 
^With  scenic  backgrounds?    Was  this  truth  of  force? 
/   Able  to  take  its  own  part  as  truth  should, 
I    Sufficient,  self-sustaining?    Why,  if  so  — 

Yonder 's  a  fire,  into  it  goes  my  book,  370 

As  who  shall  say  me  nay,  and  what  the  loss? 

You  know  the  tale  already :  I  may  ask, 

Rather  than  think  to  tell  you,  more  thereof,  — 

Ask  you  not  merely  who  were  he  and  she, 

Husband  and  wife,  what  manner  of  mankind,  375 

^  Obelisk  :  brought  from  Egypt  by  Augus-    by  Pope  Sixtus  V.  in  1589,  and  set  up  in  the 
tus,   and   placed   in   the   Circus   Maximus,    Piazza  del  Popolo,  below  the  Monte  Pincio. 
nrhence,  having  fallen  down,  it  was  removed 

THt:  RlI^G  AND  THE  BOO/t.  ft 

But  how  you  hold  concerning  this  and  that 

Other  yet-unnamed  actor  in  the  piece. 

The  young  frank  handsome  courtly  Canon,  now. 

The  priest,  declared  the  lover  of  the  wife, 

He  who,  no  question,  did  elope  with  her,  380 

For  certain  bring  the  tragedy  about, 

Giuseppe  Caponsacchi ;  —  his  strange  course 

r  the  matter,  was  it  right  or  wrong  or  both  ? 

Then  the  old  couple,  slaughtered  with  the  wifie 

By  the  husband  as  accomplices  in  crime,  385 

Those  Comparini,  Pietro  and  his  spouse,  — 

What  say  you  to  the  right  or  wrong  of  that, 

When,  at  a  known  name  whispered  through  the  door 

Of  a  lone  villa  on  a  Christmas  night. 

It  opened  that  the  joyful  hearts  inside  390 

Might  welcome  as  it  were  an  angel-guest 

Come  in  Christ ^s  name  to  knock  and  enter,  sup 

And  satisfy  the  loving  ones  he  saved ; 

And  so  did  welcome  devils  and  their  death? 

I  have  been  silent  on  that  circumstance  395 

Although  the  couple  passed  for  close  of  kin 

To  wife  and  husband,  were  by  some  accounts 

Pompilia's  very  parents :  you  know  best. 

Also  that  infant  the  great  joy  was  for. 

That  Gaetano,  the  wife's  two-weeks'  babe,  400 

The  husband's  first-bom  child,  his  son  and  heir. 

Whose  birth  and  being  turned  his  night  to  day  — 

Why  must  the  father  kill  the  mother  thus 

Because  she  bore  his  son  and  saved  himself? 

Well,  British  Public,  ye  who  like  me  not,  405 

(God  love  you!)  and  will  have  your  proper  laugh 
At  the  dark  question,  laugh  it!    I  laugh  first. 
Truth  must  prevail,  the  proverb  vows ;  and  truth 

^  —  Here  is  it  all  i'  the  book  at  last,  as  first 

There  it  was  all  i'  the  heads  and  hearts  of  Rome  410 

Gentle  and  simple,  never  to  fall  nor  fade 

\    Nor  be  forgotten.    Yet,  a  little  while, 

j    The  passage  of  a  century  or  so, 

!    Decads  thrice  five,  and  here 's  time  paid  his  tax, 
Oblivion  gone  home  with  her  harvestine,  415 

And  all  left  smooth  again  as  scythe  could  shave. 
Far  from  beginning  with  you  London  folk, 
I  took  my  book  to  Rome  first,  tried  truth's  power 
On  likely  people.    "  Have  you  met  such  names  ? 
Is  a  tradition  extant  of  such  facts  ?  420 

Your  law-courts  stand,  your  records  frown  a-row : 
What  if  I  rove  and  rummage  ?  "    " — Why  you  'U  waste 



Yoar  pains  and  end  as  wise  as  yoo  b^;an! ^ 

Every  one  snickered :  ^  names  and  fiicts  thus  old 

Are  newer  much  than  Europe  news  we  find  425 

Down  in  to-day^s  Diario>    Records,  quotha? 

Why,  the  French  burned  them,  what  else  do  the  French? 

The  rap-and-rending  nation !    And  it  tells 

Against  the  Church,  no  doubt,  —  another  gird 

At  the  Temporality,  your  Trial,  of  course  ?  "  430 

**  —  Quite  otherwise  this  time,"  submitted  I ; 

''Clean  for  the  Church  and  dead  against  the  worid. 

The  flesh  and  the  devil,  does  it  tell  for  once." 

" — The  rarer  and  the  happier !    All  the  same. 

Content  you  with  your  treasure  of  a  book,  435 

And  waive  what  ^s  wanting !    Take  a  friend's  advice  I 

It 's  not  the  custom  of  the  country.    Mend 

Your  ways  indeed  and  we  may  stretch  a  point : 

Go  get  you  manned  by  Manning  and  new-manned 

By  Newman  and,  mayhap,  wise-manned  to  boot  440 

By  Wiseman,^  and  we  '11  see  or  else  we  won't ! 

Tnanks  meantime  for  the  story,  long  and  strong, 

A  pretty  piece  of  narrative  enough, 

Wnich  scarce  ought  so  to  drop  out,  one  would  think. 

From  the  more  curious  annals  of  our  kind.  445 

Do  you  tell  the  story,  now,  in  off-hand  style, 

Straight  from  the  book  ?    Or  simply  here  and  there, 

(The  while  you  vault  it  through  the  loose  and  large) 

Hang  to  a  hmt  ?    Or  is  there  book  at  all. 

And  don't  vou  deal  in  poetry,  make-believe,  450 

And  the  wnite  lies  it  sounds  like  ? " 

Yes  and  no! 
From  the  book,  ves ;  thence  bit  by  bit  I  dug 
The  lingot*  trutn,  that  memorable  day, 
ANNayed  and  knew  my  piecemeal  gain  was  gold,  — 
Yen ;  but  from  something  else  surpassing  that,  455 

Something  of  mine  which,  mixed  up  with  the  mass, 
Made  it  bear  hammer  and  be  firm  to  file. 
Fancy  with  fact  is  iust  one  fact  the  more ; 
To-wit.  that  fancy  has  informed,  transpierced, 
Thrldaed  and  so  thrown  fast  the  facts  else  free,  460 

As  right  through  ring  and  ring  runs  the  dj[ereed  ^ 
I  And  binds  the  loose,  one  bar  without  a  break. 

I  fused  my  live  soul  and  that  iaert  stuff, 


*  /)|(itriW  .*  daily  piiper.  *  Lingot :  the  same  word  as  ingot;  here  » 

*  A/dNMiW/r*,    etc.:    distinguished    modem    the  solid  mass  of  truth. 

prelates  and  champions  of  the  Roman  Catho-        *  Dsftrttd:  an  Arab  spear.    The  allusion 
lie  Church.  is  to  a  game  analogous  to  tilting  at  a  ring. 


BgforfLattempting  smithcra^x-QQ  the  night 
After  the  day  when,  —  truth  thus  grasped  and  gained,        465 
The  book  was  sliut'and  done  with  and  laid  by 
On  the  cream-colored  massive  agate,  broad 
^Neath  the  twin  cherubs  in  the  tarnished  frame 
O^l^He  mirror,  tall  thence  to  the  ceiling-top. 
\    And  from  the  reading,  and  that  slab  I  leant  470 

My  elbow  0%  the  wmle  I  read  and  read, 
I  turned,"to  free  imyseir and  find  the  world, 
And  stepped  out  on  the  narrow  terrace,  built 
Over  the  street  and  opposite  the  church, 
And  paced  its  lozenge-brickwork  sprinkled  cool ;  475 

Because  Felice-church-side  stretched,  a-glow 
Through  each  square  window  fringed  for  festival, 
Whence  came  the  clear  voice  of  the  cloistered  ones 
Chanting  a  chant  made  for  midsummer  nights  — 
I  know  not  what  particular  praise  of  God,  480 

It  always  came  and  went  with  June.     Beneath 
r  the  street,  quick  shown  by  openings  of  the  sky 
When  flame  tell  silently  from  cloud  to  cloud. 
Richer  than  that  gold  snow^  Jove  rained  on  Rhodes, 
The  townsmen  wSked  by  twos  and  threes,  and  talked,    '  485 
Drinking  the  blackness  in  default  of  air — 
A  busy  human  sense  beneath  my  feet : 
While  in  and  out  the  terrace-plants,  and  round 
One  branch  of  tall  datura,^  waxed  and  waned 
The  lamp-fly  lured  there,  wanting  the  white  flower.  490 

Over  the  roof  o'  the  lighted  church  I  looked 
A  bowshot  to  the  street's  end,  north  away 
Out  of  the  Roman  gate  to  the  Roman  road 
By  the  river,  till  I  felt  the  Apennine. 

And  there  would  lie  Arezzo,  the  man's  town,  495 

The  woman's  trap  and  cage  and  torture-place, 
Also  the  stage  where  the  priest  played  his  part, 
A  spectacle  for  angels,  —  ay,  indeed. 
There  lay  Arezzo!  •    Farther  then  I  fared. 
Feeling  my  way  on  through  the  hot  and  dense,  500 

Romewara,  until  I  found  the  wayside  inn 
By  Castelnuovo's  few  mean  hut-like  homes 
Huddled  together  on  the  hill-foot  bleak, 
Bare,  broken  only  by  that  tree  or  two 
Against  the  sudden  Woody  splendor  poured  505 

Cursewise  in  day's  departure  by  the  sun 


^  Gold  stunvt  etc. :   as  the  Rhodians  were        '  Datura  :  thorn-apple  »  stramonium, 
the  first  who  offered  sacrifices  to  Minerva,         *  A  rezzo :    in  Tuscany,  about   40  miles 
Jove  rewarded  them  by  covering  the  island    southeast  of  Florence, 
with   a  golden   cloud   from  which  he  sent 
blowers  of  presents  upon  the  people. 


O'er  the  low  house-roof  of  that  squalid  inn 

Where  they  three,  for  the  first  time  and  the  last, 

Husband  and  wife  and  priest,  met  face  to  face. 

Whence  I  went  on  again,  the  end  was  near,  510 

Step  by  step,  missing  none  and  marking  all. 

Till  Rome  itself,  the  ghastly  goal,  I  reached. 

Why,  all  the  while,  —  how  could  it  otherwise? — 

The  life  in  me  abolished  the  death  of  things, 

Deep  calling  unto  deep :  as  then  and  there  515 

Acted  itself  over  again  once  more 

The  tragic  piece.     I  saw  with  my  own  eyes 

In  Florence  as  I  trod  the  terrace,  breathed 

The  beauty  and  the  fearfiilness  of  night. 

How  it  had  run,  this  round  from  Rome  to  Rome  —  520 

Because,  you  are  to  know,  they  lived  at  Rome, 

Pompilia's  parents,  as  they  thought  themselves. 

Two  poor  ignoble  hearts  who  did  their  best 

Pgt^God's  way,  part  the  other  wav  tha^  OnH^ 

To  somehow  make  a  shift  and  scramble  through  525 

The  world's  mud,  careless  if  it  splashed  and  spoiled, 
JProvided  they  might  so  hold  high,  keep  clean 
(]  Their  child's  soul,  one  soul  white  enough  for  three, 
\  And  lift  it  to  whatever  star  should  stoop, 
^What  possible  sphere  of  purer  life  than  theirs  530 

Should  come  in  aid  of  whiteness  hard  to  save. 

I  saw  the  star  stoop,  that  they  strained  to  touch. 

And  did  touch  and  depose  their  treasure  on. 

As  Guido  Franceschini  took  away 

Pompilia  to  be  his  for  evermore,  535 

While  they  sang  "  Now  let  us  depart  in  peace. 

Having  beheld  thy  glory,  Guido's  wife! " 

I  saw  the  star  supposed,  but  fog  o'  the  fen. 

Gilded  star-fashion  by  a  dint  from  hell ; 

Having  been  heaved  up,  haled  on  its  eross  way,  540 

By  hands  unguessed  before,  invisible  help 

From  a  dark  brotherhood,  and  specially 

Two  obscure  goblin  creatures,  fox-faced  this. 

Cat-clawed  the  other,  called  his  next  of  kin 

By  Guido  the  main  monster,  —  cloaked  and  caped,  545 

Making  as  they  were  priests,  to  mock  God  more,  — 

Abate  Paul,  Canon  Girolamo. 

These  who  had  rolled  the  starlike  pest  to  Rome 
.  And  stationed  it  to  suck  up  and  absorb 

The  sweetness  of  Pompilia,  rolled  again  550 

That  bloated  bubble,  with  her  soul  inside, 

Back  to  Arezzo  and  a  palace  there  — 

Or  say,  a  fissure  in  the  honest  earth 

Whence  long  ago  had  curled  the  vapor  first, 


I  Blown  big  by  nether  fires  to  appal  day :  555 

It  touchea  home,  broke,  and  blasted  rar  and  wide. 
;    I  saw  the  cheated  couple  find  the  cheat 
■.__And  ^ess  what  foul  rite  they  were  captured  for,  — 

Too  rain  to  follow  over  hill  and  dale 

That  child  of  theirs  caught  up  thus  in  the  cloud  560 

And  carried  by  the  Prince  o'  the  Power  of  the  Air 

Whither  he  would,  to  wilderness  or  sea. 

I  saw  them,  in  the  potency  of  fear,    - 

Break  somehow  through  the  satyr-family 

(For  a  gray  mother  with  a  monkey-mien,  565 

Mopping  and  mowing,  was  apparent  too, 

As  confident  of  capture,  all  took  hands 

And  danced  about  the  captives  in  a  ring) 

—  Saw  them  break  through,  breathe  safe,  at  Rome  again. 

Saved  by  the  selfish  instinct,  losing  so  570 

Their  loved  one  left  with  haters.     These  I  saw, 

In  recrudescency  of  baffled  hate. 

Prepare  to  wring  the  uttermost  revenge 

From  body  and  soul  thus  left  them :  all  was  sure, 

Fire  laid  and  cauldron  set,  the  obscene  ring  traced,  575 

The  victim  stripped  and  prostrate :  what  of  God? 

The  cleaving  of  a  cloud,  a  cry,  a  crash. 

Quenched  lay  their  cauldron,  cowered  i^  the  dust  the  crew, 

As,  in  a  glory  of  armor  like  Saint  George, 

Out  again  sprang  the  young  good  beauteous  priest  580 

Bearing  away  the  lady  in  his  arms, 

Saved  for  a  splendid  minute  and  no  more. 

For,  whom  i'  the  path  did  that  priest  come  upon, 

He  and  the  poor  lost  lady  borne  so  brave, 
r* —  Checking  the  song  of  praise  in  me,  had  else  585 

I  Swelled  to  the  full  for  God's  will  done  on  earth  — 
1  Whom  but  a  dusk  misfeatured  messenger, 
'  No  other  than  the  angel  of  this  lifie, 
■  Vvhdse  cafels  lest  men  see  too  much  at  once. 

He  made  the  sign,  such  God-glimpse  must  suffice,  590 

:  Nor  prejudice  the  Prince  o'.  the  Power  of  the  Air, 

Whose  ministration  piles  us  overhead 

What  we  call,  first,  earth^s  roof  and,  last,  heaven's  floor. 

Now  grate  o'  the  trap,  then  outlet  of  the  cage : 

So  took  the  lady,  left  the  priest  alone,  595 

And  once  more  canopied  the  world  with  black. 

But  through  the  blackness  I  saw  Rome  again. 

And  where  a  solitary  villa  stood 

In  a  lone  garden-quarter :  it  was  eve. 

The  second  of  the  year,  and  oh  so  cold!  600 

Ever  and  anon  there  flittered  through  the  air 

A  snow-flake,  and  a  scanty  couch  of  snow 


Crusted  the  grass-walk  and  the  garden-mould. 

All  was  ^ve,  silent,  sinister,  —  when,  ha? 

Glimmenngly  did  a  pack  of  were-wolves  pad  605 

The  snow,  those  flames  were  Guide's  eyes  in  front, 

And  all  five  found  and  footed  it,  the  track. 

To  where  a  threshold-streak  of  warmth  and  light 

Betrayed  the  villa-door  with  life  inside. 

While  an  inch  outside  were  those  blood-bright  eyes,  610 

And  black  lips  wrinkling  o'er  the  flash  of  teeth. 

And  tongues  that  lolled —  Oh  God  that  madest  man! 

They  parleyed  in  their  language.    Then  one  whined  — 

That  was  the  policy  and  master-stroke  — 

Deep  in  his  throat  whispered  what  seemed  a  name  —  611; 

"  Open  to  Caponsacchi! "  Guido  cried : 

"  Gabriel! "  cried  Lucifer  at  pden-gate. 

Wide  as  a  heart,  opened  the  door  at  once. 

Showing  the  joyous  couple,  and  their  child 

The  two-weeks'  mother,  to  the  wolves,  the  wolves  620 

To  them.     Close  eyes!    And  when  the  corpses  lay 

Stark-stretched,  and  those  the  wolves,  their  wolf- work  done, 

Were  safe-embosomed  by  the  night  again, 

I  knew  a  necessary  change  in  things ; 

As  when  the  worst  watch  of  the  night  gives  way,  •  625 

And  there  comes  duly,  to  take  cognizance. 

The  scrutinizing  eye-point  of  some  star — 

And  who  despairs  of  a  new  daybreak  now? 

Lo,  the  first  ray  protruded  on  those  five ! 

It  reached  them,  and  each  felon  writhed  transfixed.  630 

Awhile  they  palpitated  on  the  spear 

Motionless  over  Tophet :  stand  or  fall  ? 

"I  say,  the  spear  should  fall  —  should  stand,  I  say! " 

Cried  the  world  come  to  judgment,  granting  grace 

Or  dealing  doom  according  to  world's  wont,  635 

I   Those  world's-bystanders  grouped  on  Rome's  cross-road 
\  At  prick  and  summons  of  the  primal  curse 
., »        I  Which  bids  man  love  as  well  as  make  a  lie. 
}>'     -  There  prattle  they,  discoursed  the  right  and  wrong. 

Turned  wrong  to  right,  proved  wolves  sheep  and  sheep  wolves,  640 

So  that  you  scarce  distinguished  fell  from  fleece ; 
^.-  Till  out  spoke  a  great  guardian  of  the  fold. 

Stood  up,  put  forth  his  hand  that  held  the  crook. 

And  motioned  that  the  arrested  point  decline : 

Horribly  off,  the  wriggling  dead-weight  reeled,  645 

Rushed  to  the  bottom  and  lay  ruined  there. 

Though  still  at  the  pit's  mouth,  despite  the  smoke 

O'  the  burning,  tarriers  turned  again  to  talk 

And  trim  the  balance,  and  detect  at  least 

A  touch  of  wolf  in  what  showed  whitest  sheep,  650 





A  cross  of  sheep  redeeming  the  whole  wolf,  — 

_y ex  truth  a  little  longer :  —  less  and  less, 
Because  years  came  and  went,  and  more  and  more 
Brought  new  lies  with  them  to  be  loved  in  turn. 
Till  dl  at  once  the  memory  of  the  thing,  —  655 

The  fact  that,  wolves  or  sheep,  such  creatures  were,  — 

[  Which  hitherto,  however  men  supposed, 

>  Had  somehow  plain  and  pillar-like  prevailed 
,  r  the  midst  of  them,  indisputably  fact, 

>  Granite,  timers  tooth  should  grate  against,  not  graze,  —     660 
;  Why,  this  proved  sandstone,  friable,  fast  to  fly 

And  give  its  grain  away  at  wish  o^  the  wind. 
;  Ever  and  ever  more  diminutive. 

Base  gone,  shaft  lost,  only  entablature, 
;  Dwindled  into  no  bigger  than  a  book,  665 

'■  Lay  of  the  column ;  and  that  little,  left 

By  the  roadside  ^mid  the  ordure,  shards  and  weeds. 

Until  I  haply,  wandering  that  lone  way, 
'  Kicked  it  up,  turned  it  over,  and  recognized, 

For  all  the  crumblement,  this  abacus,"  670 

:  This  square  old  yellow  book,  could  calculate 
'  By  this  the  lost  proportions  of  the  style. 

r  This  was  it  from,  my  fancy  with  those  facts, 
■  i  used  to  tell  the  tale,  turneil  gayto  erave, 
But  lacked  a  listener  seldom ;  such  mlov,  675 

Such  substance  of  me  interfused  the  gold 
s    Which,  wrought  into  a  shapelv  ring  therewith, 

Hanimered  and  filed,  fingerea  and  favored,  last 
^^  Lay  ready  for  the  renovating  wash 

[ 2^^  water.    "  How  much  of  the  tale  was  true?  "  680 

f  disappeared ;  the  book  grew  all  in  all ; 
The  lawyers'  pleadings  swelled  back  to  their  size,  — 
Doubled  in  two,  the  crease  upon  them  yet, 
For  more  commodity  of  carriage,  see!  — 
And  these  are  letters,  veritable  sheets  685 

That  brought  posthaste  the  news  to  Florence,  writ 
At  Rome  the  day  Count  Guido  died,  we  find. 
To  stay  the  craving  of  a  client  there, 
Who  bound  the  same  and  so  produced  my  book. 
Lovers  of  dead  truth,  did  ye  fare  the  worse?  690 

Lovers  of  live  truth,  found  ye  false  my  tale? 

fWell,  now ;  there 's  nothing  in  nor  out  o'  the  world 
\  GoOcTexcept  truth :  yet  this  the  something  else, 

1  AhacHS  :  the  upper  part  of  the  capital  of  a  pillar  on  which  the  architrave  rests, 
its  earliest  forms  it  is  generally  square  in  shapcu 




I  What  ^s  this  then,  which  proves  ^ood  yet  seems  untrue? 
LThis  that  I  mixed  with  truth,  motions  of  mine  695 

That  quickened,  made  the  inertness  malleolable  ^ 

O'  the  gold  was  not  mine,  —  what  *s  your  name  for  this? 

Are  means  .to  the  end,  themselves  in  part^thes,  end? 

Is  fiction  which  makes  iasX  alive^  iasX  too? 

The  somehow  may  be  thishow. 

I  find  first  700 

Writ  down  for  very  A  B  C  of  fact, 
^<  In  the  beginning  God  made  heaven  and  earth ;  ^ 
From  which,  no  matter  with  what  lisp,  I  spell 
And  speak  vou  out  a  consequence  —  that  man, 
Man,  —  as  befits  the  made,  the  inferior  thing,  —  705 

f  Purposed,  since  made,  to  grow,  not  make  in  turn, 

J  Yet  forced  to  try  and  make,  else  fail  to  grow,  — 
Formed  to  rise,  reach  at,  if  not  grasp  and  gain 
The  good  beyond  him,  —  which  attempt  is  growth, — 
Repeats  God's  process  in  man's  due  degree,  710 

1  Attaining  man's  proportionate  result,  — 

IJZreates,  no,  but  resuscitates,  perhaps. 
Inalienable,  the  arch-prerogative 
Which  turns  thought,  act — conceives,  expresses  too! 

f^iLlesSt  man,  bounded,  yearning  to  be  free,  715 

iMay  so  project  his  surplusage  ofsoul 
'In  search  of  body,  so  add  selfto  jglf 
By  owning  what  lay  ownerless  before,  — 

•  So  find,  so  fill  fiill,  s61apprQpnate-^nns.-r- 
That,  although  nothing  which  had  never  life  720 

Shall  get  life  fi'om  him,  be,  not  haying^  been^ 

\  Yet,  something  dead  may  get  to  liyeagain,^ 

^  Something  wimtoo  much  nfe  or  npf  enoughy 
Which,  either  way  imperfect  ended  once : 
[An  end  whereat  man's  impulse  intervene  725 

/Makes  new  beginning,  starts  the  dead  alive, 
I  Completes  the  incomplete  and  saves  the  thing. 
Man's  breath  were  vain  to  light  a  virgin  wick,  — 
Half-bumed-out,  all  but  quite-quenched  wicks  o'  the  lamp 
Stationed  for  temple-service  on  this  earth,  730 

These  indeed  let  him  breathe  on  and  relume! 
For  such  man's  feat  is,  in  the  due  degree, 
—  Mimic  creation,  galvanism  for  life. 
But  still  a  glory  portioned  in  the  scale. 

Why  did  the  mage  say,  —  feeling  as  we  are  wont  735 

For  truth,  and  stopping  midway  short  of  truth. 
And  resting  on  a  lie,  —  "I  raise  a  ghost "  ? 

*  Malleolable  :  fonned  from  the  Latin,  malleolus,  a  little  hammer. 


r^  Because/^  he  taught  adepts,  ^'man  makes  not  man. 
V -^       I  Yet  by  a  special  gift,  an  art  of  arts, 
^^^^     I        )  More  insight  and  more  outsight  and  much  more  740 

^  I  Will  to  use  both  of  these  than  boast  my  mates, 

i  I  can  detach  from  me,  commission  fortn 

1  Half  of  my  soul ;  which  in  its  pilgrimage 

i  O'er  old  unwandered  waste  ways  of  the  world, 
May  chance  upon  some  fra^ent  of  a  whole,  745 

;  Rag  of  flesh,  scrap  of  bone  m  dim  disuse. 
Smoking  flax  that  fed  fire  once :  prompt  therein 
I  enter,  spark-like,  put  old  powers  to  play. 
Push  lines  out  to  the  limit,  lead  forth  last 
(By  a  moonrise  through  a  ruin  of  a  crypt)  750 

What  shall  be  mistily  seen,  murmuringly  heard. 
Mistakenly  felt :  then  write  my  name  with  Faust's! " 
Oh,  Faust,  why  Faust?    Was  not  Elisha  once?  — 
Who  bade  them  lay  his  staff  on  a  corpse-£^e. 
iTiere  was  no  voice,  no  hearing :  he  went  in  755 

Therefore^  and  shut  the  door  upon  them  twain, 
And  prayed  unto  the  Lord :  and  he  went  up 
And  lay  upon  the  corpse,  dead  on  the  coucn. 
And  put  his  mouth  upon  its  mouth,  his  eyes 
Uponlts  eyes,  his  hands  upon  its  hands,  760 

And  stretcned  him  on  the  flesh ;  the  flesh  waxed  warm : 
And  he  returned,  walked  to  and  fro  the  house. 
And  went  up,  stretched  him  on  the  flesh  again, 
And  the  eyes  opened.    'T  is  a  credible  feat 
With  the  right  man  and  way. 

Enough  of  me !  765 

.   The  Book!  I  turn  its  medicinable  leaves 
In  London  now  till,  as  in  Florence  erst, 
.  ~  A  spirit  laughs  and  leaps  through  every  limb, 
,    .  ;    And  lights  my  eye,  and  lifts  me  by  the  hair, 

^^—^^    ■      ;   Letting  me  have  my  will  again  with  these  770 

—  How  title  I  the  aead  alive  once  more? 

Count  Guido  Franceschini  the  Aretine, 

Descended  of  an  ancient  house,  though  poor, 

A  beak-nosed  bushv-bearded  black-haired  lord, 

Lean,  pallid,  low  ot  stature  yet  robust,  775 

Fifty  years  old,  —  having  four  years  ago 

Married  Pompilia  Comparini,  young. 

Good,  beautiful,  at  Rome,  where  she  was  bom, 

And  brought  her  to  Arezzo,  where  they  lived 

Unhappy  lives,  whatever  curse  the  cause,  —  780 

This  husband,  taking  four  accomplices. 

Followed  this  wife  to  Rome,  where  she  was  fled 


From  their  Arezzo  to  find  peace  again. 

In  convoy,  eight  months  earlier,  of  a  priest, 

Aretine  also,  of  still  nobler  birth,  785 

Giuseppe  Caponsacchi,  —  caught  her  there 

Quiet  in  a  villa  on  a  Christmas  night, 

With  only  Pietro  and  Violante  by. 

Both  her  putative  parents ;  killed  the  three, 

Aged,  they,  seventy  each,  and  she,  seventeen,  790 

And,  two  weeks  since,  the  mother  of  his  babe 

First-bom  and  heir  to  what  the  style  was  worth 

O'  the  Guido  who  determined,  dared  and  did 

This  deed  just  as  he  purposed  point  by  point. 

Then,  bent  upon  escape,  but  hotly  pressed,  795 

And  captured  with  his  co-mates  that  same  night, 

He,  brought  to  trial,  stood  on  this  defence  — 

Injury  to  his  honor  caused  the  act ; 

And  since  his  wife  was  false,  (as  manifest 

By  flight  from  home  in  such  companionship,)  800 

Death,  punishment  deserved  of  the  false  wife 

And  faithless  parents  who  abetted  her 

r  the  flight  aforesaid,  wronged  nor  God  nor  man. 

**  Nor  false  she,  nor  yet  faithless  they,"  replied 

The  accuser ;  "  cloaked  and  masked  this  murder  glooms ;    805 

True  was  Pompilia,  loyal  too  the  pair ; 

Out  of  the  man's  own  heart  a  monster  curled 

Which  —  crime  coiled  with  connivancy  at  crime  — 

His  victim's  breast,  he  tells  you,  hatched  and  reared ; 

Uncoil  we  and  stretch  stark  the  worm  of  hell! "  810 

A  month  the  trial  swayed  this  way  and  that 

Ere  judgment  settled  down  on  Guido's  guilt ; 

Then  was  the  Pope,  that  good  Twelfth  Innocent, 

Appealed  to :  who  well  weighed  what  went  before, 

Affirmed  the  guilt  and  gave  the  guilty  doom.  815 

Let  this  old  woe  step  on  the  stage  again! 
Act  itself  o'er  anew  for  men  to  judge, 

1  Not  by  the  very  sense  and  sight  indeed — 

:  (Which  take  at  best  imperfect  cognizance. 
Since,  how  heart  moves  brain,  and  how  both  move  hand,    820 
What  mortal  ever  in  entirety  saw?) 
—  No  dose  of  purer  truth  than  man  digests, 
But  truth  with  falsehood,  milk  that  feeds  him  now. 
Not  strong  meat  he  may  get  to  bear  some  day  — 
To-wit,  by  voices  we  call  evidence,  825 

Uproar  in  the  echo,  live  fact  deadened  down. 
Talked  over,  bruited  abroad,  whispered  away, 
Yet  helping  us  to  all  we  seem  to  hear : 
For  how  else  know  we  save  by  worth  of  word? 


Here  are  the  voices  presently  shall  sound  830 

In  due  succession.     First,  the  world^s  outcry 

Around  the  rush  and  ripple  of  any  fact 

Fallen  stonewise,  plumb  on  the  smooth  face  of  thinss ; 

The  world^s  guess,  as  it  crowds  the  bank  o^  the  poo^ 

At  what  were  fi^re  and  substance,  by  their  splash :  835 

Then,  by  vibrations  in  the  general  mind, 

At  depth  of  deed  already  out  of  reach. 

This  threefold  murder  of  the  day  before,  — 

Say,  Half-Rome's  feel  after  the  vanished  truth ; 

Honest  enough,  as  the  way  is :  all  the  same,  840 

Harboring  in  the  centre  of  its  sense 

A  hidden  germ  of  failure,  shy  but  sure, 

To  neutralize  that  honesty  and  leave 

That  feel  for  truth  at  fault,  as  the  way  is  too. 

Some  prepossession  such  as  starts  amiss,  845 

By  but  a  hair's  breadth  at  the  shoulder-blade. 

The  arm  o'  the  feeler,  dip  he  ne'er  so  bold ; 

So  leads  arm  waveringly,  lets  fall  wide 

O'  the  mark  its  finger,  sent  to  find  and  fix 

Truth  at  the  bottom,  that  deceptive  speck.  850 

With  this  Half-Rome,  —  the  source  of  swerving,  call 

Over-belief  in  Guido's  right  and  wrong 

Rather  than  in  Pompilia's  wrong  and  right : 

Who  shall  say  how,  who  shall  say  why?    'Tis  there  — 

The  instinctive  theorizing  whence  a  fact  855 

Looks  to  the  eye  as  the  eye  likes  the  look. 

Gossip  in  a  public  place,  a  sample-speech. 

Some  worthy,  with  his  previous  hint  to  find 

A  husband's  side  the  safer,  and  no  whit 

Aware  he  is  not  iCacus  ^  the  while,  —  860 

How  such  an  one  supposes  and  states  fact 

To  whosoever  of  a  multitude 

Will  listen,  and  perhaps  prolong  thereby 

The  not-unpleasant  flutter  at  the  breast, 

Born  of  a  certain  spectacle  shut  in  865 

By  the  church  Lorenzo  opposite.     So,  they  lounge 

Midway  the  mouth  o'  the  street,  on  Corso  side, 

'Twixt  palace  Fiano  and  palace  Ruspoli, 

Linger  and  listen ;  keeping  clear  o'  the  crowd. 

Yet  wishful  one  could  lend  that  crowd  one's  eyes,  870 

( So  universal  is  its  plague  of  squint) 

And  make  hearts  beat  our  time  that  flutter  false : 

—  All  for  truth's  sake,  mere  truth,  nothing  else ! 

How  Half-Rome  found  for  Guido  much  excuse. 

^  MacHs :   the   colleague  of  Minos  and  Rbadamanthus  as  judge  of  the  nether  worl4» 
hence  a  type  of  impartiality. 

22  THE  nmc  A/fD  THE  BOOK. 

Next,  from  Rome^s  other  half,  the  opposite  feel  875 

For  truth  with  a  like  swerve,  like  unsuccess,  — 

Or  if  success,  by  no  skill  but  more  luck 

This  time,  through  siding  rather  with  the  wife, 

Because  a  fancy-fit  inclined  that  way, 

Than  with  the  husband.    One  wears  drab,  one  pink ;  880 

Who  wears  pink,  ask  him  "  Which  shall  win  the  race, 

Of  coupled  runners  like  as  egg  and  egg?  " 

"  —  Why,  if  I  must  choose,  he  with  the  pink  scarf." 

Doubtless  for  some  such  reason  choice  fell  here. 

A  piece  of  public  talk  to  correspond  885 

At  the  next  stage  of  the  story ;  just  a  day 

Let  pass  and  new  day  brings  the  proper  change. 

Another  sample-speech  i'  the  market-place 

O'  the  Barberini  by  the  Capucins ; 

Where  the  old  Triton,^  at  his  fountain-sport,  890 

Bernini's  creature  plated  to  the  paps, 

Puffs  up  steel  sleet  which  breaks  to  diamond  dust, 

A  spray  of  sparkles  snorted  from  his  conch. 

High  over  the  caritellas,  out  o'  the  way 

O'  the  motley  merchandizing  multitude.  895 

Our  murder  nas  been  done  three  days  ago, 

The  frost  is  over  and  gone,  the  south  wmd  laughs. 

And,  to  the  very  tiles  of  each  red  roof 

A-smoke  i'  the  sunshine,  Rome  lies  gold  and  glad : 

So,  listen  how,  to  the  other  half  of  Rome,  900 

Pompilia  seemed  a  saint  and  martyr  both! 

Then,  yet  another  day  let  come  and  go. 

With  pause  prelusive  still  of  novelty, 

Hear  a  fresh  speaker!  —  neither  this  nor  that 

Half-Rome  aforesaid ;  something  bred  of  both :  905 

One  and  one  breed  the  inevitable  three. 

Such  is  the  personaee  harangues  you  next ; 

The  elaborated  product,  tertium  quid:  ^ 

Rome's  first  commotion  in  subsidence  gives 

The  curd  o'  the  cream,  flower  o'  the  wheat,  as  it  were,        910 

And  finer  sense  o' the  city.  Is  this  plain? 
,  You  get  a  reasoned  statement  of  the  case, 
i  Eventual  verdict  of  the  curious  few 

Who  care  to  sift  a  business  to  the  bran 

Nor  coarsely  bolt  it  like  the  simpler  sort.  915 

Here,  after  ignorance,  instruction  speaks ; 

1  Old  Triton  :  fountain  in  the  great  square        '  Ttrtium  quid:  a  third  something, 
of  the  Barberini  palace,  palace  and  fountain 
both  by  Bernini,  celebrated  sculptor  and  archi- 
tect, X598-1680. 

THE  Rmo  AND  THE  BOOK.  23 

Here,  clarity  of  candor,  history's  soul, 

The  critical  mind,  in  short :  no  gossip-guess. 

What  the  superior  social  section  thinks, 

In  person  of  some  man  of  quality  920 

Who,  —  breathing  musk  from  lace-work  and  brocade, 

His  solitaire  amid  the  flow  of  frill. 

Powdered  peruke  on  nose,  and  bag  at  back, 

And  cane  dependent  from  the  ruffled  wrist,  — 

Harangues  in  silvery  and  selectest  phrase  925 

'Neath  waxlight  in  a  glorified  saloon 

Where  mirrors  multiply  the  girandole :  1 

Courting  the  approbation  of  no  mob, 

But  Emmence  This  and  All-Illustrious  That 

Who  take  snuff  softly,  range  in  well-bred  ring,  930 

Cardntable-quitters  for  observance'  sake. 

Around  the  argument,  the  rational  word  — 

Still,  spite  its  weight  and  worth,  a  sample-speech. 

How  Quality  dissertated  on  the  case. 

So  much  for  Rome  and  rumor ;  smoke  comes  first :  935 

Once  let  snioke  rise  untroubled,  we  descry 

Clearlier  what  tongues  of  flame  may  spire  and  spit 

To  eye  and  ear,  each  with  appropriate  tinge 

According  to  its  food,  or  pure  or  foul. 

The  actors,  no  mere  rumors  of  the  act,  940 

Intervene.     First  you  hear  Count  Guido's  voice, 

In  a  small  chamber  that  adjoins  the  court. 

Where  Governor  and  Judges,  summoned  thence, 

Tommati,  Venturini  and  the  rest. 

Find  the  accused  ripe  for  declaring  truth.  945 

Soft-cushioned  sits  he ;  yet  shifts  seat,  shirks  touch, 

As,  with  a  twitchy  brow  and  wincing  lip 

And  cheek  that  changes  to  all  kinds  of  white. 

He  proffers  his  defence,  in  tones  subdued 

Near  to  mock-mildness  now,  so  mournful  seems  950 

The  obtuser  sense  truth  fails  to  satisfy ; 

Now,  moved,  from  pathos  at  the  wrong  endured. 

To  passion ;  for  the  natural  man  is  roused 

At  tools  who  first  do  wrong  then  pour  the  blame 

Of  their  wrong-doing,  Satan-like,  on  Job.  955 

Also  his  tongue  at  times  is  hard  to  curb ; 

Incisive,  nigh  satiric  bites  the  phrase. 

Rough-raw,  yet  somehow  claiming  privilege 

—  It  is  so  hard  for  shrewdness  to  admit 

Folly  means  no  harm  when  she  calls  black  white!  960 

—  Eruption  momentary  at  the  most, 

'  Girandole  :  a  dance. 


Modified  forthwith  Jby  a  fell  o'  the  fire, 

Sage  acquiescence ;  for  the  world  *s  the  world. 

And,  what  it  errs  in.  Judges  rectify : 

He  feels  he  has  a  fist,  then  folds  his  arms  965 

Crosswise  and  makes  his  mind  up  to  be  meek. 

And  never  once  does  he  detach  his  eye 

From  those  ranged  there  to  slay  him  or  to  save, 

But  does  his  best  man^s-service  for  himself, 

Despite,  —  what  twitches  brow  and  makes  lip  wince,< —       970 

His  limbs^  late  taste  of  what  was  called  the  Cord, 

Or  Vigil-torture  ^  more  facetiously. 

Even  so ;  they  were  wont  to  tease  the  truth 

Out  of  loth  witness  (toying,  trifling  time) 

By  torture :  't  was  a  trick,  a  vice  of  the  age,  975 

Here,  there  and  everywhere,  what  would  you  have  ? 

Religion  used  to  tell  Humanity 

She  gave  him  warrant  or  denied  him  course. 

And  since  the  course  was  much  to  his  own  mind. 

Of  pinching  flesh  and  pulling  bone  from  bone  980 

To  unhusk  truth  a-hiding  in  its  hulls, 

Nor  whisper  of  a  warning  stopped  the  way. 

He,  in  their  joint  behalf,  the  burly  slave. 

Bestirred  him,  mauled  and  maimed  all  recusants. 

While,  prim  in  place.  Religion  overlooked ;  985 

And  so  had  done  till  doomsday,  never  a  sign 

Nor  sound  of  interference  from  her  mouth. 

But  that  at  last  the  burly  slave  wiped  brow, 

Let  eye  give  notice  as  it  soul  were  there. 

Muttered  "  'T  is  a  vile  trick,  foolish  more  than  vile,  990 

Should  have  been  counted  sin ;  I  make  it  so : 

At  any  rate  no  more  of  it  for  me  — 

Nay,  for  I  break  the  torture-engine  thus! " 

Then  did  Religion  start  up,  stare  amain, 

Look  round  for  help  and  see  none,  smile  and  say  995 

"What,  broken  is  the  rack?    Well  done  of  thee! 

Did  I  forget  to  abrogate  its  use  ? 

Be  the  mistake  in  common  with  us  both ! 

—  One  more  fault  our  blind  age  shall  answer  for, 

Down  in  my  book  denounced  though  it  must  be  1000 

Somewhere.     Henceforth  find  truth  by  milder  means! " 

Ah  but.  Religion,  did  we  wait  for  thee 

To  ope  the  book,  that  serves  to  sit  upon, 

And  pick  such  place  out,  we  should  wait  indeed! 

That  is  all  history :  and  what  is  not  now,  1005 

Was  then,  defendants  found  it  to  their  cost. 

How  Guido,  after  being  tortured,  spoke. 

^  Vigil-torture  :   which  kept  the  accused    a  jurist  of  Bologna,  and  called  by  him  cordis 
from  sleep,  said  to  be  invented  by  Marsiliis,    dolorem. 


Also  hear  Caponsacchi  who  comes  next, 

Man  and  priest —  could  ^ou  comprehend  the  coil!  — 

In  days  when  that  was  nfe  which  now  is  rare.  loio 

How,  mingling  each  its  multifarious  wires, 

Now  heaven,  now  earth,  now  heaven  and  earth  at  oncCi 

Had  plucked  at  and  perplexed  their  puppet  here^ 

Played  off  the  young  frank  personable  priest ; 

Sworn  fast  and  tonsured  plain  heaven^s  celibate,  1015 

And  yet  earth's  clear-accepted  servitor, 

A  courtly  spiritual  Cupid,  squire  of  dames 

By  law  of  love  and  mandate  of  the  mode. 

The  Church's  own,  or  why  parade  her  seal. 

Wherefore  that  chrism  and  consecrative  work?  1020 

Yet  verily  the  world's,  or  why  go  badged 

A  prince  of  sonneteers  and  lutanists,^ 

Show  color  of  each  vanity  in  vogue 

Borne  with  decorum  due  on  blameless  breast? 

All  that  is  changed  now,  as  he  tells  the  court  1025 

How  he  had  played  the  part  excepted  at ; 

Tell  it,  moreover,  now  the  second  time : 

Since,  for  his  cause  of  scandal,  his  own  share 

I'  the  flight  from  home  and  husband  of  the  wife, 

He  has  been  censured,  punished  in  a  sort  1030 

By  relegation, — exile,  we  should  say. 

To  a  short  distance  for  a  little  time,  — 

Whence  he  is  summoned  on  a  sudden  now, 

Informed  that  she,  he  thought  to  save,  is  lost, 

And,  in  a  breath,  bidden  re-tell  his  tale,  1035 

Since  the  first  telling  somehow  missed  effect. 

And  then  advise  in  the  matter.    There  stands  he. 

While  the  same  grim  black-panelled  chamber  blinks 

As  though  rubbed  shiny  with  the  sins  of  Rome 

Told  the  same  oak  for  ages  —  wave-washed  wall  1040 

Against  which  sets  a  sea  of  wickedness. 

There,  where  you  yesterday  heard  Guido  speak. 

Speaks  Caponsacchi ;  and  there  face  him  too 

Tommati,  Venturini  and  the  rest 

Who,  eight  months  earlier,  scarce  repressed  the  smile^      1045 

Forewent  the  wink ;  waived  recognition  so 

Of  peccadillos  incident  to  youth. 

Especially  youth  high-born ;  for  youth  means  love, 

Vows  can't  change  nature,  priests  are  only  men. 

And  love  likes  stratagem  and  subterfiige  1050 

Which  age,  that  once  was  youth,  should  recognize, 

May  blame,  but  needs  not  press  too  hard  upon. 

Here  sit  the  old  Judges  then,  but  with  no  grace 

^  Lutanisf:  player  on  the  lute. 


Of  reverend  carriage,  magisterial  port : 

For  why?    The  accused  of  eight  months  since,  —  the  same      1055 

Who  cut  the  conscious  figure  of  a  fool, 

Changed  countenance,  dropped  bashful  gaze  to  ground. 

While  hesitating  for  an  answer  then,  — 

Now  is  grown  judge  himself,  terrifies  now 

This,  now  the  other  culprit  called  a  judge,  1060 

Whose  turn  it  is  to  stammer  and  look  strange, 

As  he  speaks  rapidly,  angrily,  speech  that  smites : 

And  they  keep  silence,  bear  blow  after  blow. 

Because  the  seeming-solitary  man. 

Speaking  for  God,  ma^  have  an  audience  too,  1065 

Invisible,  no  discreet  judge  provokes. 

How  the  priest  Caponsacchi  said  his  say. 

Then  a  soul  sighs  its  lowest  and  its  last 

After  the  loud  ones,  —  so  much  breath  remains 

Unused  by  the  four-days'-dying ;  for  she  lived  1070 

Thus  long,  miraculously  long,  't  was  thought, 

Just  that  Pompilia  might  dercnd  herself. 

How,  while  the  hireling  and  the  alien  stoop. 

Comfort,  yet  question,  —  since  the  time  is  brief. 

And  folk,  allowably  inquisitive,  1075 

Encircle  the  low  pallet  where  she  lies 

In  the  good  house  that  helps  the  poor  to  die,  — 

Pompilia  tells  the  story  of  her  life. 

For  friend  and  lover, — leech  and  man  of  law 

Do  service ;  busj  helj^fiil  ministrants  1080 

As  varied  in  their  calung  as  their  mind. 

Temper  and  age :  and  yet  from  all  of  these. 

About  the  white  bed  under  the  arched  roof. 

Is  somehow,  as  it  were,  evolved  a  one,  — 

Small  separate  sympathies  combined  and  large,  1085 

Nothings  that  were,  grown  something  very  much : 

As  if  the  bystanders  gave  each  his  straw. 

All  he  had,  though  a  trifle  in  itself. 

Which,  plaited  afi  together,  made  a  Cross 

Fit  to  die  looking  on  and  praying  with,  1090 

Just  as  well  as  if  ivory  or  gold. 

So,  to  the  common  kindliness  she  speaks. 

There  being  scarce  more  privacy  at  the  last 

For  mind  than  body :  but  she  is  used  to  bear. 

And  only  unused  to  the  brotherly  look.  1095 

How  she  endeavored  to  explain  her  life. 

Then,  since  a  Trial  ensued,  a  touch  o'  the  same 

To  sober  us,  flustered  with  frothy  talk. 

And  teach  our  common  sense  its  helplessness. 


For  why  deal  simply  with  divining-rod,  Iioo 

Scrape  where  we  fancy  secret  sources  flow, 

And  ignore  law,  the  recognized  machine, 

Elaborate  display  of  pipe  and  wheel 

Framed  to  unchoke,  pump  up  and  pour  apace 

Truth  till  a  flowery  foam  shall  wash  the  world?  1105 

The  patent  truth-extracting  process,  —  ha? 
.  y^       /'  ^Let  us  make  that  grave  naystery  turn  one  wheel, 
y         \   )  Give  you  a  single  grind  01  law  at  least! 

One  Orator,  of  two  on  either  side. 

Shall  teach  us  the  puissance  of  the*  tongue  mo 

—  That  is,  o'  the  pen  which  simulated  tongue 

On  paper  and  saved  all  except  the  sound 

Which  never  was.    Law's  speech  beside  law's  thought? 

That  were  too  stunnins^,  too  immense  an  odds : 

That  point  of  vantage  Taw  lets  nobly  pass.  11 15 

One  lawyer  shall  admit  us  to  behold 

The  manner  of  the  making  out  a  case, 

First  fashion  of  a  speech ;  the  chick  in  egg, 

The  masterpiece  law's  bosom  incubates. 

How  Don  Giacinto  of  the  Arcangeli,  1120 

Called  Procurator  of  the  Poor  at  Rome, 

Now  advocate  for  Guido  and  his  mates,  — 

The  jolly  learned  man  of  middle  age, 

Cheek  and  jowl  all  in  laps  with  isX  and  law. 

Mirthful  as  mighty,  yet,  as  great  hearts  use,  1125 

Despite  the  name  and  fame  that  tempt  our  flesh, 

Constant  to  that  devotion  of  the  hearth, 

Still  captive  in  those  dear  dom.estic  ties!  — 

How  he,  —  having  a  cause  to  triumph  with, 

All  kind  of  interests  to  keep  intact,  1130 

More  than  one  eflicacious  personage 

To  tranquillize,  conciliate  and  secure. 

And  above  all,  public  anxiety 

To  quiet,  show  its  Guido  in  good  hands,  — 

Also,  as  if  such  burdens  were  too  light,  1 135 

A  certain  family-feast  to  claim  his  care. 

The  birthday-banquet  for  the  only  son  — 

Paternity  at  smUing  strife  with  law  — 

How  he  brings  both  to  buckle  in  one  bond ; 
And,  thick  at  throat,  with  waterish  under-eye,  11 40 

Turns  to  his  task  and  settles  in  his  seat 

And  puts  his  utmost  means  in  practice  now : 

Wheezes  out  law-phrase,  whifiles  Latin  forth. 

And,  just  as  though  roast  lamb  would  never  be, 

Makes  logic  levigate  ^  the  big  crime  small :  1 145 

^  Levigate  :  make  light  of. 


Rubs  palm  on  palm,  rakes  foot  with  itchy  foot, 

Conceives  and  inchoates  the  arj^ment, 

Sprinkling  each  flower  appropriate  to  the  time, 

—  Ovidian  quip  or  Ciceronian  crank,  • 

A-bubble  in  the  larynx  while  he  laughs,  115a 

As  he  had  fritters  cleep  down  frying  there. 

How  he  turns,  twists,  and  tries  the  oily  thing 

Shall  be  —  first  speech  for  Guido  'gainst  the  Fisc. 

Then  with  a  skip  as  it  were  from  heel  to  head. 

Leaving  yourselves  fill  up  the  middle  bulk  11 55 

O'  the  Trial,  reconstruct  its  shape  august. 

From  such  exordium  clap  we  to  the  dose ; 

Give  you,  if  we  dare  wing  to  such  a  height. 

The  absolute  g;lory  in  some  frill-grown  speech 

On  the  other  side,  some  finished  butterfly,  1 160 

Some  breathing  diamond-flake  with  leaf-gold  fans, 

That  takes  the  air,  no  trace  of  worm  it  was, 

Or  cabbage-bed  it  had  production  from. 

Giovambattista  o'  the  Bottini,  Fisc, 

Pompilia's  patron  by  the  chance  of  the  hour,  11 65 

To-morrow  her  persecutor,  —  composite,  he. 
As  becomes  who  must  meet  such  various  calls  — 
Odds  of  age  joined  in  him  with  ends  of  youth. 
A  man  of  ready  smile  and  £&cile  tear. 

Improvised  hopes,  despairs  at  nod  and  beck,  1 170 

And  language  —  ah,  the  gift  of  eloquence! 
Language  that  goes,  goes,  easy  as  a  glove. 
O'er  good  and  evil,  smoothens  both  to  one. 
Rashness  helps  caution  with  him,  fires  the  straw, 
In  free  enthusiastic  careless  fit,  1175 

On  the  first  proper  pinnacle  of  rock 
Which  offers,  as  reward  for  all  that  zeal. 
To  lure  some  bark  to  founder  and  bring  gain : 
While  calm  sits  Caution,  rapt  with  heavenward  eye, 
A  true  confessor's  gaze,  amid  the  glare  1 180 

Beaconing  to  the  breaker,  death  and  hell. 
"  Well  done,  thou  good  and  faithful "  she  approves : 
"  Hadst  thou  let  shp  a  fagot  to  the  beach. 
The  crew  might  surely  spy  thy  precipice 
And  save  their  boat ;  the  simple  and  the  slow  1 185 

Might  so,  forsooth,  forestall  the  wrecker's  fee! 
Let  the  next  crew  be  wise  and  hail  in  time ! " 
Just  so  compounded  is  the  outside  man, 
Blue  juvenile  pure  eye  and  pippin  cheek. 
And  brow  all  prematurely  soiled  and  seamed  1 190 

With  sudden  age,  bright  devastated  hair. 
Ah,  but  you  miss  the  very  tones  o'  the  voice, 
The  scrannel  pipe  that  screams  in  heights  of  head, 


As,  in  his  modest  studio,  all  alone. 

The  tall  wieht  stands  a-tiptoe,  strives  and  strains,  1195 

Both  eyes  shut,  like  the  cockerel  that  would  crow, 

Tries  to  his  own  self  amorously  o'er 

What  never  will  be  uttered  else  than  so  — 

Since  to  the  four  walls,  Forum  and  Mars'  Hill, 

Speaks  out  the  poesy  which,  penned,  turns  prose.  1200 

Clavecinist  ^  debarred  his  instrument, 

He  yet  thrums  —  shirking  neither  turn  nor  trill, 

With  desperate  fineer  on  dumb  table-edge — 

The  sovereign  rondo,^*  shall  conclude  his  Suitey 

Charm  an  imaginary  audience  there,  1205 

From  old  Corelli '  to  young  HaendeV  both 

r  the  flesh  at  Rome,  ere  he  perforce  go  print 

The  cold  black  score,  mere  music  for  the  mind  — 

The  last  speech  against  Guido  and  his  gang. 

With  special  end  to  prove  Pompilia  pure.  12 10 

How  the  Fisc  vindicates  Pompilia's  fame. 

Then  comes  the  all  but  end,  the  ultimate 

Judgment  save  yours.    Pope  Innocent  the  Twelfth, 

Simple,  sagacious,  mild  yet  resolute. 

With  prudence,  probity  and  —  what  beside  1 2 1 5 

From  the  other  world  he  feels  impress  at  times, 

Having  attained  to  fourscore  years  and  six,  — 

How,  when  the  court  found  Guido  and  the  rest 

Guilty,  but  law  supplied  a  subterfuge 

And  passed  the  final  sentence  to  the  Pope,  1220 

He,  bringing  his  intelligence  to  bear 

This  last  time  on  what  ball  behoves  him  drop 

In  the  urn,  or  white  or  black,  does  drop  a  black. 

Send  Ave  souls  more  to  just  precede  his  own, 

Stand  him  in  stead  and  witness,  if  need  were,  1225 

How  he  is  wont  to  do  God's  work  on  earth. 

The  manner  of  his  sitting  out  the  dim 

Droop  of  a  sombre  February  day 

In  the  plain  closet  where  he  does  such  work, 

With,  from  all  Peter's  treasury,  one  stool,  1230 

One  table,  and  one  lathen  ^  crucifix. 

There  sits  the  Pope,  his  thoughts  for  company ; 

Grave  but  not  sad,  —  nay,  something  like  a  cheer 

^  C/av^ctVrtlr/.*  a  player  on  the  harpsichord.        ^Haendel:    celebrated   composer,   1685- 

*  Rondo:  a  form  of  composition  in  which    X759. 

the  theme  is  repeated  and  developed  according  '^  Lathtn  :  probably  meant  for  latten^  a 
to  certain  rules.  Often  used  as  the  final  move-  fine  kind  of  brass  or  bronze  used  in  the 
ment  of  a  sonata  or  suite.  Middle  Ages  for  crosses  and  candlesticks. 

*  Corelli:  Arcangelo,  violin  virtuoso  and 
composer,  Z653-Z7Z3. 


Leaves  the  lips  free  to  be  benevolent, 

Which,  all  day  long,  did  duty  firm  and  fast.  1235 

A  cherishing  there  is  of  foot  and  knee, 
A  chafing  loose-skinned  large-veined  hand  with  hand,  — 
What  steward  but  knows  when  stewardship  earns  its  wage, 
May  levy  praise,  anticipate  the  lord  ? 

He  reads,  notes,  lays  the  papers  down  at  last,  1240 

Muses,  then  takes  a  turn  about  the  room ; 
Unclasps  a  huge  tome  in  an  antique  guise. 
Primitive  print  and  tongue  half  obsolete, 
That  stands  him  in  diurnal  stead ;  opes  page. 
Finds  place  where  falls  the  passage  to  be  conned  1245 

According  to  an  order  long  in  use : 
And,  as  he  comes  upon  the  evening^s  chance. 
Starts  somewhat,  solemnizes  straight  his  smile, 
Then  reads  aloud  that  portion  first  to  last. 
And  at  the  end  lets  fiow  his  own  thoughts  forth  1250 

Likewise  aloud,  for  respite  and  relief, 
\v>''  Till  by  the  dreary  relics  of  the  west 

\^  Wan  through  the  half-moon  window,  all  his  light. 

He  bows  the  head  while  the  lips  move  in  prayer. 
Writes  some  three  brief  lines,  signs  and  seals  the  same,     1255 
Tinkles  a  hand-bell,  bids  the  obsequious  Sir 
Who  puts  foot  presently  o'  the  closet-sill 
He  watched  outside  of,  bear  as  superscribed 
That  mandate  to  the  Governor  forthwith : 
Then  heaves  abroad  his  cares  in  one  good  sigh,  1260 

Traverses  corridor  with  no  arm's  help. 
And  so  to  sup  as  a  clear  conscience  should. 
The  manner  of  the  judgment  of  the  Pope. 

Then  must  speak  Guido  yet  a  second  time, 

Satan^s  old  saw  being  apt  here  —  skin  for  skin,  1265 

All  a  man  hath  that  will  he  give  for  life. 

While  life  was  graspable  and  gainable. 

And  bird-like  buzzed  her  wings  round  Guido's  brow, 

Not  much  truth  stiffened  out  the  web  of  words 

He  wove  to  catch  her :  when  away  she  flew  1270 

And  death  came,  death's  breath  rivelled  ^  up  the  lies, 

Left  bare  the  metal  thread,  the  fibre  fine 

Of  truth,  i'  the  spinning :  the  true  words  shone  last. 

How  Guido,  to  another  purpose  quite. 

Speaks  and  despairs,  the  last  night  of  his  life,  1275 

In  that  New  Prison  by  Castle  Angel  o 

At  the  bridge  foot :  the  same  man,  another  voice. 

On  a  stone  bench  in  a  close  fetid  cell, 

^  Rivetted  :  shrank  up. 


Where  the  hot  vapor  of  an  agony, 

Struck  into  drops  on  the  cold  wall,  runs  down —  1280 

Horrible  worms  made  out  of  sweat  and  tears  — 

There  crouch,  well  nigh  to  the  knees  in  dungeon-straw^ 

Lit  by  the  sole  lamp  suffered  for  their  sake, 

Two  awe-struck  figures,  this  a  Cardinal, 

That  an  Abate,  both  of  old  styled  friends  1285 

O^  the  thing  part  man  part  monster  in  the  midst, 

So  changed  is  Franceschini's  gentle  blood. 

The  tiger-cat  screams  now,  that  whined  before, 

That  pried  and  tried  and  trod  so  gingerly. 

Till  in  its  silkiness  the  trap-teeth  joined ;  1290 

Then  you  know  how  the  bristling  fiiry  foams. 

They  listen,  this  wrapped  in  his  folds  of  red, 

While  his  feet  fumble  for  the  filth  below ; 

The  other,  as  beseems  a  stouter  heart. 

Working  his  best  with  beads  and  cross  to  ban  1295 

The  enemy  that  comes  in  like  a  flood 

Spite  of  the  standard  set  up,  verily 

And  in  no  trope  at  all,  against  him  there ; 

For  at  the  prison-gate,  just  a  few  steps 

Outside,  already,  in  the  doubtful  dawn,  1300 

Thither,  from  this  side  and  from  that,  slow  sweep 

And  settle  down  in  silence  solidly. 

Crow-wise,  the  frightful  Brotherhood  of  Death  ^ 

Black-hatted  and  black-hooded  huddle  they. 

Black  rosaries  a-dangling  from  each  waist ;  1305 

So  take  they  their  grim  station  at  the  door. 

Torches  lit,  skull-and-cross-bones-banner  spread, 

And  that  gigantic  Christ  with  open  arms, 

Grounded.    Nor  lacks  there  aught  but  that  the  group 

Break  forth,  intone  the  lamentable  psalm,  13  fo 

"Out  of  the  deeps.  Lord,  have  I  cried  to  thee!"  — 

When  inside,  from  the  true  profound,  a  sign 

Shall  bear  intelligence  that  the  foe  is  foiled, 

Count  Guido  Franceschini  has  confessed, 

And  is  absolved  and  reconciled  with  God.  131 5 

Then  they,  intoning,  may  begin  their  march. 

Make  by  the  longest  way  for  the  People's  Square, 

Carry  the  criminal  to  his  crime's  award : 

A  mob  to  cleave,  a  scaffolding  to  reach, 

Two  gallows  and  Mannaia  ^  crowning  all.  1320 

How  Guido  made  defence  a  second  time. 

^  Brotherhood  of  Death  :  the  confrater-        *  Mannaia  :  a  kind  of  guillotine, 
nity  of  the  Misericordia,  or  brothers-of  mercy, 
who  prepare  criminals  for  death,  and  attend 
funends  as  an  act  of  charity. 


Finally,  even  as  thus  by  step  and  step 

I  led  you  from  the  level  of  to-day 

Up  to  the  summit  of  so  long  ago, 

Here,  whence  I  point  you  the  wide  prospect  round —         1325 

Let  me,  by  like  steps,  slope  you  back  to  smooth. 

Land  you  on  mother-earth,  no  whit  the  worse, 

To  feed  o'  the  fat  o'  the  furrow :  free  to  dwell. 

Taste  our  time's  better  things  profusely  spread 

)  For  all  who  love  the  level,  corn  and  wine,  1330 

;  Much  cattle  and  the  many-folded  fleece. 

'  Shdl  not  my  friends  go  ^ast  again  on  sward, 

:  Though  cognizant  of  country  in  the  clouds 

i   Higher  than  wistful  eagle's  horny  eye 
Ever  unclosed  for,  'mid  ancestrd  crags,  1335 

When  morning  broke  and  Spring  was  back  once  more. 
And  he  died,  heaven,  save  by  his  heart,  unreached? 
Yet  heaven  my  fancy  lifts  to,  ladder-like,  — 
As  Jack  reached,  holpen^  of  his  beanstalk-rungs! 

A  novel  country :  I  might  make  it  mine  1340 

By  choosing  which  one  aspect  of  the  year 
Suited  mood  best,  and  putting  solely  that 
On  panel  somewhere  in  the  House  of  Fame, 
Landscaping  what  I  saved,  not  what  I  saw : 
—  Might  fix  you,  whether  frost  in  eoblin-time  1345 

Startled  the  moon  with  his  abrupt  Ijright  laugh, 
Or,  August's  hair  afloat  in  filmy  fire, 
She  fell,  arms  wide,  face  foremost  on  the  world. 
Swooned  there  and  so  singed  out  the  strength  of  things. 
Thus  were  abolished  Spring  and  Autumn  both,  1350 

The  land  dwarfed  to  one  likeness  of  the  land, 
^Life  cramped  corpse-fashion.     Rather  learn  and  love 
Each  facet-flash  of  the  revolving  year!  — 
Red,  green  and  blue  that  whirl  mto  a  white, 
The  variance  now,  the  eventual  unity,  1355 

j,-  Which  make  the  miracle.     See  it  for  yourselves, 
This  man's  act,  changeable  because  alive! 
Action  now  shrouds,  nor  shows  the  informing  thought ; 
Man,  like  a  glass  ball  with  a  spark  a-top, 
Out  of  the  magic  fire  that  lurks  inside,  1360 

Shows  one  tint  at  a  time  to  take  the  eye : 
Which,  let  a  finger  touch  the  silent  sleep. 
Shifted  a  hair's-breadth  shoots  you  dark  for  bright, 
Suffuses  bright  with  dark,  and  baffles  so 
Your  sentence  absolute  for  shine  or  shade.  1365 

Once  set  such  orbs,  —  white  styled,  black  stigmatized,  — 

^  Holpen  :  old  form,  past  participle  of  help. 




\  A-rolling,  see  them  once  on  the  other  side 
Your  good  men  and  your  bad  men  every  one 
From  Guido  Franceschini  to  Guy  Faux, 
Oft  would  you  rub  your  eyes  and  change  your  names.        1370 

Such,  British  Public,  ye  who  like  me  not, 
(God  love  you!)  —  whom  I  yet  have  labored  for, 
Perchance  more  careful  whoso  runs  may  read 
Than  erst  when  all,  it  seemed,  could  read  who  ran,  - 
Perchance  more  careless  whoso  reads  may  praise  1375 

Than  late  when  he  who  praised  and  read  and  wrote 
Was  apt  to  find  himself  the  self-same  me,  — 
TSuch  labor  had  such  issue,  so  I  wrought 
This  arc,  by  furtherance  of  such  alloy. 

And  so,  bv  one  spirt,  take  away  its  trace  1380 

Till,  justifiably  golden,  rounds  my  ring. 

-——A  ring  without  a  posy,^  and  that  ring  mine? 

fO  l)rric  Love,  half  aneel  and  half  bird 
^And  all  a  wonder  and  a  wild  desire,  — 

Boldest  of  hearts  that  ever  braved  the  sun,  1385 

Took  sanctuary  within  the  holier  blue. 

And  sang  a  kindred  soul  out  to  his  face,  — 

Yet  human  at  the  red-ripe  of  the  heart  — 

When  the  first  summons  from  the  darkling  earth 

Reached  thee  amid  thy  chambers,  blanched  their  blue,      1390 

And  bared  them  of  the  glory  —  to  drop  down. 

To  toil  for  man,  to  suffer  or  to  die,  — 

This  is  the  same  voice :  can  thy  soul  know  change? 
^ail  then,  and  hearken  from  the  realms  of  help! 
r  Never  may  I  commence  my  song,  my  due  1395 

To  God  who  best  taught  song  by  gift  of  thee, 
[Except  with  bent  head  and  beseeching  hand  — 
^""[That  still,  despite  the  distance  and  the  dark, 
tWhat  was,  again  may  be ;  some  interchange 

Of  grace,  some  splendor  once  thy  very  thought,  1400 

Some  benediction  anciently  thy  smile : 
f  —  Never  conclude,  but  raising  hand  and  head 
\  Thither  where  eyes,  that  cannot  reach,  yet  yearn 
I  For  all  hope,  all  sustainment,  all  reward, 
<  Their  utmost  up  and  on,  —  so  blessing  back  1405 

In  those  thy  realms  of  help,  that  heaven  thy  home. 

Some  whiteness  which,  I  judge,  thy  face  makes  proud, 
_Some  wanness  where,  I  think,  thy  foot  may  fall! 

^  Posy  :  a  motto  or  rhyme  engraved  inside  a  ring. 




[Book  II.  gives  the  facts  of  the  story  ending  in  the  murder  as  known  to  the  gen- 
eral  public  and  colored  by  the  partisanship  of  the  speaker  for  wronged  husbands. 
His  sympathies  are,  therefore,  with  Guido,  and  he  is  the  mouthpiece  of  one  half 
Rome.  The  scene  is  by  the  church  of  San  Lorenzo,  in  and  out  of  which  has 
surged  all  day  a  crowd,  curious  to. view  Guido's  victims,  Pietro  and  Violante.] 

What,  you,  Sir,  come  too?     (Just  the  man  I  'd  meet.) 

Be  ruled  by  me  and  have  a  care  o'  the  crowd : 

This  way,  while  fresh  folk  go  and  get  their  gaze : 

I  '11  tell  you  like  a  book  and  save  your  shins. 

Fie,  what  a  roaring  day  we've  had!    Whose  fault?  5 

Lorenzo  in  Lucina,^  —  here 's  a  church 

To  hold  a  crowd  at  need,  accommodate 

All  comers  from  the  Corso!  ^    If  this  crush 

Make  not  its  priests  ashamed  of  what  they  show 

For  temple-room,  don't  prick  them  to  draw  purse  10 

And  down  with  bricks  and  mortar,  eke  us  out 

The  beggarly  transept  with  its  bit  of  apse 

Into  a  decent  space  for  Christian  ease. 

Why,  to-day's  lucky  pearl  is  cast  to  swine. 

Listen  and  estimate  the  luck  they've  had!  15 

(The  right  man,  and  I  hold  him.) 

Sir,  do  you  see, 
They  laid  both  bodies  in  the  church,  this  mom 
The  first  thing,  on  the  chancel  two  steps  up, 
Behind  the  lit^e  marble  balustrade ; 

Disposed  them,  Pietro  the  old  murdered  fool  20 

To  the  right  of  the  altar,  and  his  wretched  wife 
On  the  other  side.     In  trying  to  count  stabs, 
People  supposed  Violante  showed  the  most, 
Till  somebody  explained  us  that  mistake ; 
His  wounds  had  been  dealt  out  indifferent  where,  25 

But  she  took  all  her  stabbings  in  the  face. 
Since  punished  thus  solely  for  honor's  sake. 
Honoris  causd,  that 's  the  proper  term. 

1  Lorenzo  in  Lucina  :    a  church  in  the         *  torso :    the    principal   thoroughfare   of 
small  square  of  San  Lorenzo,  opening  out  of    Rome, 
the  Corso.      Founded  in  the  fifth  century, 
rebuilt  by  Paul  V.  1606. 


A  delicacy  there  is,  our  gallants  hold, 

When  you  avenge  your  honor  and  only  then,  30 

That  you  disfigure  the  subject,  fray  the  face, 

Not  just  take  life  and  end,  in  clownish  guise. 

It  was  Violante  gave  the  first  offence. 

Got  therefore  the  conspicuous  punishment : 

While  Pietro,  who  helped  merely,  his  mere  death  35 

Answered  the  purpose,  so  his  face  went  free. 

We  fancied  even,  free  as  you  please,  that  face 

Showed  itself  still  intolerably  wronged ; 

Was  wrinkled  over  with  resentment  ye^ 

Nor  calm  at  all,  as  murdered  faces  use,  40 

Once  the  worst  ended :  an  indi|;nant  air 

O'  the  head  there  was  —  't  is  said  the  body  turned 

Round  and  away,  rolled  from  Violante^s  side 

Where  they  had  laid  it  loving-husband-like. 

If  so,  if  corpses  can  be  sensitive,  45 

Whv  did  not  he  roll  right  down  altar-step. 

Roll  on  through  nave,  roll  feirly  out  of  church, 

Deprive  Lorenzo  of  the  spectacle, 

Pav  back  thus  the  succession  of  affronts 

Wnereto  this  church  had  served  as  theatre?  50 

For  see :  at  that  same  altar  where  he  lies, 

To  that  same  inch  of  step,  was  brought  the  babe 

For  blessing  after  baptism,  and  there  styled 

Pompilia,  and  a  string  of  names  beside. 

By  his  bad  wife,  some  seventeen  years  ago,  55 

Who  purchased  her  simply  to  palm  on  him, 

Flatter  his  dotage  and  defraud  the  heirs. 

Wait  awhile!    Also  to  this  very  step 

Did  this  Violante,  twelve  years  afterward. 

Bring,  the  mock-mother,  that  child-cheat  full-grown,  60 

Pompilia,  in  pursuance  of  her  plot. 

And  there  brave  God  and  man  a  second  time 

By  linking  a  new  victim  to  the  lie. 

There,  having  made  a  match  unknown  to  him, 

She,  still  unknown  to  Pietro,  tied  the  knot  65 

Which  nothing  cuts  except  this  kind  of  knife ; 

Yes,  made  her  daughter,  as  the  girl  was  held. 

Marry  a  man,  and  honest  man  beside, 

And  man  of  birth  to  boot,  —  clandestinely 

Because  of  this,  because  of  that,  because  70 

O'  the  devil's  will  to  work  his  worst  for  once,  — 

Confident  she  could  top  her  part  at  need 

And,  when  her  husband  must  be  told  in  turn. 

Ply  the  wife's  trade,  play  off  the  sex's  trick 

And,  alternating  worry  with  quiet  qualms,  75 

Bravado  with  submissivenesS;  pr^ttUy  fool 

36  THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK,       . 

Her  Pietro  into  patience :  so  it  proved. 

Ay,  't  is  four  years  since  man  and  wife  they  grew, 

This  Guido  Franceschini  and  this  same 

Pompilia,  foolishly  thought,  falsely  declared  80 

A  Comparini  and  the  couple's  child : 

Just  at  this  altar  where,  beneath  the  piece 

Of  Master  Guido  Reni,^  Christ  on  cross,^ 

Second  to  naught  observable  in  Rome, 

That  couple  lie  now,  murdered  yestereve.  85 

Even  the  blind  can  see  a  providence  here. 

From  dawn  till  now  that  it  is  growing  dusk, 

A  multitude  has  flocked  and  fuled  the  church, 

Coming  and  going,  coming  back  again. 

Till  to  count  crazed  one.     Rome  was  at  the  show.  90 

People  climbed  up  the  columns,  fought  for  spikes 

O'  the  chapel-rail  to  perch  themselves  upon, 

Jumped  over  and  so  broke  the  wooden  work 

Painted  like  porphyry  to  deceive  the  eye ; 

Serve  the  priests  right !    The  orean-loft  was  crammed,         95 

Women  were  fainting,  no  few  fights  ensued, 

In  short,  it  was  a  show  repaid  your  pains : 

For,  though  their  room  was  scant  undoubtedly, 

Yet  they  did  manage  matters,  to  be  just, 

A  little  at  this  Lorenzo.     Body  o^  me!  100 

I  saw  a  body  exposed  once  .  .  .  never  mind! 

Enough  that  here  the  bodies  had  their  due. 

No  stinginess  in  wax,  a  row  all  round. 

And  one  big  taper  at  each  head  and  foot. 

So,  people  pushed  their  way,  and  took  their  turn,  105 

Saw,  threw  their  eyes  up,  crossed  themselves,  gave  place 

To  pressure  from  behind,  since  all  the  world 

Knew  the  old  pair,  could  talk  the  tragedy 

Over  from  first  to  last :  Pompilia  too, 

Those  who  had  known  her  —  what 't  was  worth  to  them!    no 

Guido's  acquaintance  was  in  less  request ; 

The  Count  had  lounged  somewhat  too  long  in  Rome, 

Made  himself  cheap ;  with  him  were  hand  and  glove 

Barbers  and  blear-eyed,  as  the  ancient'  sings. 

Also  he  is  alive  and  like  to  be :  115 

Had  he  considerately  died, — aha! 

I  jostled  Luca  Cini  on  his  staff, 

1  Guido  Rent:  a  painter  of  the  Bolognese         »  The  ancient :  Horace  ("  Satires  "  i.  7, 3, 
school  (1574-1643).  "  Omnibus  et  lippis  notum  et  tonsoribus  "). 

*  Christ  on  Cross  :  represents  the  Cruci- 
^on  seen  against  a  wild^  stormy  sky. 


Mute  in  the  midst,  the  whole  man  one  amaze^ 

Staring  amain  and  crossing  brow  and  breast. 

"How  now?"  asked  I.    "'T is  seventy  years,"  quoth  he,    120 

"  Since  I  first  saw,  holding  my  father^s  hand, 

Bodies  set  forth :  a  many  nave  I  seen. 

Yet  all  was  poor  to  this  I  live  and  see. 

Here  the  world^s  wickedness  seals  up  the  sum : 

What  with  Molinos^  ^  doctrine  and  this  deed,  125 

Antichrist  surely  comes  and  doomsday  ^s  near. 

May  I  depart  in  peace,  I  have  seen  my  see." 

"  Depart  then,"  I  advised,  "  nor  block  the  road 

For  voungsters  still  behindhand  with  such  sights!" 

"  Wny  no,"  rejoins  the  venerable  sire,  130 

"  I  know  it 's  horrid,  hideous  past  belief. 

Burdensome  far  beyond  what  eye  can  bear ; 

But  they  do  promise,  when  Pompilia  dies 

r  the  course  o'  the  day,  —  and  she  can't  outlive  night, — 

They  '11  bring  her  body  also  to  expose  135 

Beside  the  parents,  one,  two,  three  abreast ; 

That  were  indeed  a  sight,  which  might  I  see, 

I  trust  I  should  not  last  to  see  the  like ! " 

Whereat  I  bade  the  senior  spare  his  shanks. 

Since  doctors  give  her  till  to-night  to  live,  140 

And  tell  us  how  the  butchery  happened.    "  Ah, 

But  you  can't  know! "  sighs  he,  "  I  '11  not  despair : 

Beside  I  'm  useful  at  explaining  things — 

As,  how  the  dagger  laid  there  at  the  feet. 

Caused  the  pecuHar  cuts ;  I  mind  its  make,  145 

Triangular  i'  the  blade,  a  Genoese, 

Armed  with  those  little  hook-teeth  on  the  edge 

To  open  in  the  flesh  nor  shut  again : 

I  like  to  teach  a  novice :  I  shall  stay! " 

And  stay  he  did,  and  stay  be  sure  he  will.  150 

A  personage  came  by  the  private  door 

At  noon  to  have  his  look :  I  name  nq  names : 

Well  then,  His  Eminence  the  Cardinal, 

Whose  servitor  in  honorable  sort 

Guido  was  once,  the  same  who  made  the  match,  155 

(Will  you  have  the  truth  ?)  whereof  we  see  effect. 

No  sooner  whisper  ran  he  was  arrived 

Than  up  pops  Curate  Carlo,  a  brisk  lad. 

Who  never  lets  a  good  occasion  slip. 

And  volunteers  improving  the  event.  160 

We  looked  he  'd  give  the  history's  self  some  help, 

Treat  us  to  how  the  wife's  confession  went 

<  Molinos*  doctrine  :  see  note,  I.  303. 

38  THE  Rmc  AND  THE  BOOK. 

(This  morning  she  confessed  her  crime,  we  know) 

And,  maybe,  throw  in  something  of  the  Priest — 

If  he 's  not  ordered  back,  punished  an^w,  165 

The  gallant,  Caponsacchi,  Lucifer 

r  the  garden  where  Pompilia,  Eve-like,  lured 

Her  Adam  Guido  to  his  fault  and  fall. 

Think  you  we  got  a  sprig  of  speech  akin 

To  this  from  Carlo,  with  the  Cardinal  there?  170 

Too  wary  he  was,  too  widely  awake,  I  trow. 

He  did  the  murder  in  a  dozen  words ; 

Then  said  that  all  such  outrages  crop  forth 

r  the  course  of  nature  when  Molinos^  tares 

Are  sown  for  wheat,  flourish  and  choke  the  Church :  175 

So  slid  on  to  the  abominable  sect 

And  the  philosophic  sin  —  we  Ve  heard  all  that. 

And  the  Cardinal  too,  (who  book-made  on  the  same)^ 

But,  for  the  murder,  left  it  where  he  found. 

Oh  but  he  ^s  quick,  the  Curate,  minds  his  game!  180 

And,  after  all,  we  have  the  main  o'  the  fact : 

Case  could  not  well  be  simpler,  —  mapped,  as  it  were, 

We  follow  the  murder's  maze  from  source  to  sea, 

By  the  red  line,  past  mistake :  one  sees  indeed 

Not  only  how  all  was  and  must  have  been,  185 

But  cannot  other  than  be  to  the  end  of  time. 

Turn  out  here  by  the  Ruspoli !  ^    Do  you  hold 

Guido  was  so  prodigiously  to  blame  ? 

A  certain  cousin  of  yours  has  told  you  so  ? 

Exactly!    Here 's  a  friend  shall  set  you  right,  190 

Let  him  but  have  the  handsel'  of  your  ear. 

These  wretched  Comparini  were  once  gay 
And  galliard,^  of  the  modest  middle  class : 
•     Bom  in  this  quarter  seventy  years  ago 

And  married  young,  they  lived  the  accustomed  life,  195 

Citizens  as  they  were  of  good  repute : 

And,  childless,  naturally  took  their  ease 

With  only  their  two  selves  to  care  about 

And  use  the  wealth  for :  wealthy  is  the  word, 

Since  Pietro  was  possessed  of  house  and  land  —  200 

And  specially  one  house,  when  good  days  smiled, 

In  Via  Vittoria,  the  aspectable  street 

Where  he  lived  mainly ;  but  another  house 

Of  less  pretension  did  he  buy  betimes. 

The  villa,  meant  for  jaunts  and  jollity,  205 

1  Cardinal y  who  hook-made  on  the  same  :         *  Ruspoli  :  palace  on  the  Corso. 
two  or  three  books  on  the  teachings  of  Molinos         '  Handsel :  first  gift, 
were  written  by  Cardinal  d'Estr^s.  *  Galliard  :  brisk,  active. 


r  the  Pauline  district,  to  be  private  there  — 

Just  what  puts  murder  in  an  enemy^s  iiead. 

Moreover,  —  here  's  the  worm  i'  the  core,  the  germ 

O'  the  rottenness  and  ruin  which  arrived,  — 

He  owned  some  usufruct,  had  moneys^  use  210 

Lifelong,  but  to  determine  with  his  life 

In  heirs^  default :  so,  Pietro  craved  an  heir, 

(The  story  always  old  and  always  new) 

Shut  his  fooPs-eyes  fast  on  the  visible  good 

And  wealth  for  certain,  opened  them  owl-wide  215 

On  fortune^s  sole  piece  of  forgetfidness. 

The  child  that  should  have  been  and  would  not  be. 

Hence,  seventeen  years  ago,  conceive  his  glee 

When  first  Violante,  ^twixt  a  smile  and  blush, 

With  touch  of  agitation  proper  too,  220 

Announced  that,  spite  of  her  unpromising  age, 

The  miracle  would  in  time  be  manifest. 

An  heir^s  birth  was  to  happen :  and  it  did. 

Somehow  or  other, — how,  all  in  good  time! 

By  a  trick,  a  sleight  of  hand  you  are  to  hear,  —  225 

A  child  was  bom,  Pompilia,  for  his  joy. 

Plaything  at  once  and  prop,  a  fairy-gift, 

A  saints^  ^ce  or,  say,  grant  of  the  good  God,  — 

A  fiddle-pm's  end!    What  imbeciles  are  we! 

Look  now :  if  some  one  could  have  prophesied,  230 

"  For  love  of  you,  for  likine  to  your  wife, 

I  undertake  to  crush  a  snake  I  spy 

Settling  itself  i'  the  soft  of  both  your  breasts. 

Give  me  yon  babe  to  strangle  pamlessly! 

She  '11  soar  to  the  safe :  you  '11  have  your  crying  out,  235 

Then  sleep,  then  wake,  then  sleep,  then  end  your  days 

In  peace  and  plenty,  mixed  with  mild  regret. 

Thirty  years  hence  when  Christmas  takes  old  folk" — 

How  had  old  Pietro  sprung  up,  crossed  himself. 

And  kicked  the  conjurer!    Whereas  you  and  I,  240 

Being  wise  with  after-wit,  had  clapped  our  hands ; 

Nay,  added,  in  the  old  fool's  interest, 

"  Strangle  the  black-eyed  babe,  so  far  so  good, 

But  on  condition  you  relieve  the  man 

O'  the  wife  and  throttle  him  Violante  too  —  245 

She  is*  the  mischief! " 

We  had  hit  the  mark. 
She,  whose  trick  had  brought  the  babe  into  the  world, 
She  it  was,  when  the  babe  was  grown  a  girl. 
Judged  a  new  trick  should  reinforce  the  old. 
Send  vigor  to  the  lie  now  somewhat  spent  250 


By  twelve  years'  service ;  lest  Eve's  rule  decline 

Over  this  Adam  of  hers,  whose  cabbage-plot 

Throve  dubiously  since  turned  fools'-paradise, 

Spite  of  a  nightingale  on  every  stump. 

Pietro's  estate  was  dwindling  day  bv  day,  255 

While  he,  rapt  far  above  such  mundane  care^ 

Crawled  all-fours  with  his  baby  pick-a-back, 

Sat  at  serene  cats'-cradle  with  his  child, 

Or  took  the  measured  tallness,  top  to  toe, 

Of  what  was  grown  a  great  girl  twelve  years  old :  260 

Till  sudden  at  the  door  a  tap  discreet, 

A  visitor's  premonitory  cou^h. 

And  poverty  had  reached  him  in  her  rounds. 

This  came  when  he  was  past  the  working-time, 

Had  learned  to  dandle  and  forgot  to  dig,  265 

And  who  must  but  Violante  cast  about. 

Contrive  and  task  that  head  of  hers  again? 

She  who  had  caught  one  fish,  could  make  that  catch 

A  bigger  still,  in  angler's  policy : 

So,  with  an  angler's  mercy  for  the  bait,  270 

Her  minnow  was  set  wriggling  on  its  barb 

And  tossed  to  mid-stream ;  wnich  means,  this  grown  girl 

With  the  great  eyes  and  bounty  of  black  hair 

And  first  crisp  youth  that  tempts  a  jaded  taste. 

Was  whisked  i'  the  way  of  a  certain  man,  who  snapped.         275 

Count  Guido  Franceschini  the  Aretine  ^ 

Was  head  of  an  old  noble  house  enough, 

Not  over-rich,  you  can't  have  everything. 

But  such  a  man  as  riches  rub  against. 

Readily  stick  to,  —  one  with  a  right  to  them  280 

Born  in  the  blood :  't  was  in  his  very  brow 

Always  to  knit  itself  against  the  world. 

Beforehand  so,  when  that  world  stinted  due 

Service  and  suit :  the  world  ducks  and  defers. 

As  such  folks  do,  he  had  come  up  to  Rome  285 

To  better  his  fortune,  and,  since  many  years, 

Was  friend  and  follower  of  a  cardinal ; 

Waiting  the  rather  thus  on  providence 

That  a  shrewd  younger  poorer  brother  yet, 

The  Abate  Paolo,  a  regular  priest,  290 

Had  long  since  tried  his  powers  and  found  he  swam 

With  the  deftest  on  the  Galilean  pool : 

But  then  he  was  a  web-foot,  free  o'  the  wave, 

And  no  ambiguous  dab-chick  ^  hatched  to  strut, 

>  A  retine  :  native  of  Arezto.  *  Dab<htck  :  a  small-sized  grebe,  a  genus 


Humbled  by  any  fond  attempt  to  swim  295 

When  fiercer  fowl  usurped  his  dunghill  top  — 

A  whole  priest,  Paolo,  no  mere  piece  of  one 

Like  Guido  tacked  thus  to  the  Churches  tail!^ 

Guido  moreover,  as  the  head  o^  the  house, 

Claiming  the  main  prize,  not  the  lesser  luck,  300 

The  centre  lily,  no  mere  chickweed  fringe. 

He  waited  and  learned  waiting,  thirty  years ; 

Got  promise,  missed  performance  —  what  would  you  have? 

No  petty  post  rewards  a  nobleman 

For  spending  youth  in  splendid  lackey-work,  305 

And  there 's  concurrence  for  each  rarer  prize ; 

When  that  falls,  rougher  hand  and  readier  foot 

Push  aside  Guido  spite  of  his  black  looks. 

The  end  was,  Guido,  when  the  warning  showed. 

The  first  white  hair  i^  the  glass,  gave  up  the  game,  310 

Determined  on  returning  to  his  town. 

Making  the  best  of  bad  incurable. 

Patching  the  old  palace  up  and  lingering  there 

The  customary  life*  out  with  his  kin. 

Where  honor  helps  to  spice  the  scanty  bread.  315 

Just  as  he  trimmed  his  lamp  and  girt  his  loins 

To  go  his  journey  and  be  wise  at  home. 

In  the  right  mood  of  disappointed  worth, 
I  Who  but  Violante  sudden  spied  her  prey 
•  (Where  was  I  with  that  angler-simile  ?  )  320 

And  threw  her  bait,  Pompilia,  where  he  sulked  — 

A  gleam  i'  the  gloom! 

What  if  he  gained  thus  much. 
Wrung  out  this  sweet  drop  from  the  bitter  Past, 
Bore  off  this  rose-bud  from  the  prickly  brake 
To  justify  such  torn  clothes  and  scratched  hands,  325 

And,  after  all,  brought  something  back  from  Rome? 
Would  not  a  wife  serve  at  Arezzo  well 
To  light  the  dark  house,  lend  a  look  of  youth 
To  the  mother's  face  grown  meagre,  left  alone 
And  famished  with  the  emptiness  of  hope,  '  330 

Old  Donna  Beatrice  ?    Wife  you  want 
Would  you  play  family-representative. 
Carry  you  elder-brotherly,  high  and  right 
O'er  what  may  prove  the  natural  petulance 

of  diving  birds,  frequenting  rivers  and  fresh-    ing's  use  of  the  allusion  appears  to  be  at  fault 

water  lakes.      Its  movements  on  land  are    here. 

ungainly,  but  it  swims  gracefully.    Brown-        ^  CA«rMV  tot'/;  see  note,  I.. a6ow 


Of  the  third  brother,  younger,  greedier  still,  335 

Girolamo,  also  a  fledgeling  priest, 

Beginning  life  in  turn  with  callow  beak 

Agape  for  luck,  no  luck  had  stopped  and  stilled. 

Such  were  the  pinks  and  grays  about  the  bait 

Persuaded  Guido  gulp  down  hook  and  all.  340 

What  constituted  him  so  choice  a  catch. 
You  question?    Past  his  prime  and  poor  beside! 
Ask  that  of  any  she  who  knows  the  trade. 
Why  first,  here  was  a  nobleman  with  friends, 
A  palace  one  might  run  to  and  be  safe  345 

When  presently  the  threatened  fate  should  fall, 
A  big-browed  master  to  block  doorway  up, 
'  Parley  with  people  bent  on  pushing  by 
And  praying  the  mild  Pietro  quick  clear  scores : 
Is  birth  a  privilege  and  power  or  no  ?  350 

Also,  —  but  jud^e  of  the  result  desired, 
Bv  the  price  paid  and  manner  of  the  sale. 
The  Count  was  made  woo,  win  and  wed  at  once : 
Asked,  and  was  haled  for  answer,  iest  the  heat 
Should  cool,  to  San  Lorenzo,  one  blind  eve,  355 

And  had  Pompilia  put  into  his  arms 
O'  the  sly  there,  by  a  hasty  candle-blink. 
With  sanction  of  some  priest-confederate 
Properly  paid  to  make  short  work  and  sure. 

So  did  old  Pietro^s  daughter  change  her  style  360 

For  Guido  Franceschini's  lady-wire 

Ere  Guido  knew  it  well ;  and  why  this  haste 

And  scramble  and  indecent  secrecy? 

"  Lest  Pietro,  all  the  while  in  ignorance. 

Should  get  to  learn,  gainsay  and  break  the  match :  365 

His  peevishness  had  promptly  put  aside 

Such  honor  and  refused  the  proffered  boon, 

Pleased  to  become  authoritative  once. 

She  remedied  the  wilful  man's  mistake  —  " 

Did  our  discreet  Violante.     Rather  say,  370 

Thus  did  she,  lest  the  object  of  her  game, 

Guido  the  gulled  one,  give  him  but  a  chance, 

A  moment's  respite,  time  for  thinking  twice. 

Might  count  the  cost  before  he  sold  himself. 

And  try  the  clink  of  coin  they  paid  him  with.  375 

But  coin  paid,  bargain  struck  and  business  done, 
Once  the  clandestine  marriage  over  thus. 
All  parties  made  perforce  the  best  o'  the  fact ; 
Pietro  could  play  vast  indignation  pff^ 


Be  ignorant  and  astounded,  dupe,  poor  soul,  380 

Please  you,  of  daughter,  wife  and  son-in-law, 

While  Guido  found  himself  in  flagrant  fault. 

Must  e^en  do  suit  and  service,  soothe,  subdue 

A  father  not  unreasonably  chafed. 

Bring  him  to  terms  by  paying  son^s  devoir.  385 

Pleasant  initiation! 

The  end,  this : 
Guidons  broad  back  was  saddled  to  bear  all  — 
Pietro,  Violante,  and  Pompilia  too,  — 
Three  lots  cast  confidently  in  one  lap. 

Three  dead-weiehts  with  one  arm  to  lift  the  three  390 

Out  of  their  limbo  up  to  life  again. 
The  Roman  household  was  to  strike  fresh  root 
In  a  new  soil,  graced  with  a  novel  name. 
Gilt  with  an  alien  glory,  Aretine 

Henceforth  and  never  Roman  any  more,  395 

By  treaty  and  engagement ;  thus  it  ran : 
Pompilia's  dowry  for  Pompilia^s  self 
As  a  thing  of  course,  —  she  paid  her  own  expense ; 
No  loss  nor  gain  there :  but  the  couple,  you  see, 
They,  for  their  part,  turned  over  first  of  all  400 

Their  fortune  in  its  rags  and  rottenness 
To  Guido,  fusion  and  confusion,  he 
And  his  with  them  and  theirs,  —  whatever  rag 
With  coin  residuary  fell  on  floor 

When  Brother  Paolo's  energetic  shake  405 

Should  do  the  relics  justice :  since  't  was  thought. 
Once  vulnerable  Pietro  out  of  reach, 
That,  left  at  Rome  as  representative, 
The  Abate,  backed  by  a  potent  patron  here, 
And  otherwise  with  purple  flushmg  him,  410 

Might  play  a  good  game  with  the  creditor, 
M^e  up  a  moiety  which,  great  or  small. 
Should  go  to  the  common  stock  —  if  anything, 
Guido's,  so  far  repayment  of  the  cost 

About  to  be,  —  and  if,  as  looked  more  like,  415 

Nothing,  —  why,  ull  the  nobler  cost  were  his 
Who  guaranteed,  for  better  or  for  worse. 
To  Pietro  and  Violante,  house  and  home. 
Kith  and  kin,  with  the  pick  of  company 
And  life  o'  the  fat  o'  the  land  while  life  should  last.  420 

How  say  you  to  the  bargain  at  first  blush  ? 
Why  did  a  middle-aged  not-silly  man 
Show  himself  thus  besotted  all  at  once? 
Quoth  Solomon,^  one  black  eye  does  it  all. 

^  Quoth  Solomon  :  Solomon's  Song  iv.  9. 


They  went  to  Arezzo,  —  Pietro  and  his  spouse^  425 

With  just  the  dusk  o^  the  day  of  life  to  spend. 

Eager  to  use  the  twilight,  taste  a  treat, 

Enjoy  for  once  with  neither  stay  nor  stint 

The  luxury  of  lord-and-lady-ship, 

And  realize  the  stuff  and  nonsense  long  430 

A-simmer  in  their  noddles ;  vent  the  fume 

Born  there  and  bred,  the  citizen's  conceit 

How  fares  nobility  while  crossing  earth, 

What  rampart  or  invisible  body-guard 

Keeps  off  the  taint  of  common  life  from  such.  435 

They  had  not  fed  for  nothing  on  the  tales 

Of  grandees  who  give  banquets  worthy  Jove, 

Spending  gold  as  if  Plutus  ^  paid  a  whim, 

Served  with  obeisances  as  when  .  .  .  what  God? 

I  'm  at  the  end  of  my  tether ;  't  is  enough  440 

You  understand  what  they  came  primed  to  see : 

While  Guido  who  should  minister  the  sight. 

Stay  all  this  qualmish  greediness  of  soul 

With  apples  and  with  flagons  —  for  his  part. 

Was  set  on  life  diverse  as  pole  from  pole :  445 

Lust  of  the  flesh,  lust  of  the  eye,  —  what  else 

Was  he  just  now  awake  from,  sick  and  sage. 

After  the  very  debauch  they  would  begin  ?  — 

Suppose  such  stuff  and  nonsense  really  were. 

That  bubble,  they  were  bent  on  blowing  big,  450 

He  had  blown  already  till  he  burst  his  cheeks, 

And  hence  found  soapsuds  bitter  to  the  tongue. 

He  hoped  now  to  walk  softly  all  his  days 

In  soberness  of  spirit,  if  haply  so, 

Pinching  and  paring  he  might  furnish  forth  455 

A  frugal  board,  bare  sustenance,  no  more. 

Till  times,  that  could  not  well  grow  worse,  should  mend. 

Thus  minded  then,  two  parties  mean  to  meet 

And  make  each  other  happy.    The  first  week, 

And  fancy,  strikes  fact  and  explodes  in  full.  460 

**  This,"  shrieked  the  Comparini,  *'  this  the  Count, 

The  palace,  the  signorial  privilege. 

The  pomp  and  pageantry  were  promised  us? 

For  this  have  we  exchanged  our  liberty, 

Our  competence,  our  darling  of  a  child  ?  465 

To  house  as  spectres  in  a  sepulchre 

Under  this  black  stone-heap,  the  street's  disgrace, 

Grimmest  as  that  is  of  the  gruesome  town. 

And  here  pick  garbage  on  a  pewter  plate 

*  Plutus  :  God  of  Wealth,  son  of  Jasion  and  Ceres. 


Or  cough  at  verjuice ^  dripped  from  earthenware?  470 

Oh  Via  Vittoria,  oh  the  other  .place 

P  the  Pauline,  did  we  dve  you  up  for  this? 

Where 's  the  foregone  housekeeping  good  and  gay, 

The  neighborliness,  the  companionship, 

The  treat  and  feast  when  holidays  came  round,  475 

The  daily  feast  that  seemed  no  treat  at  all, 

Called  common  by  the  uncommon  fools  we  were! 

Even  the  sun  that  used  to  shine  at  Rome, 

Where  is  it  ?    Robbed  and  starved  and  frozen  too, 

We  will  have  justice,  justice  if  there  be  ! "  480 

Did  not  they  shout,  did  not  the  town  resound! 

Guidons  old  lady-mother  Beatrice, 

Who  since  her  husband.  Count  Tommaso^s  death. 

Had  held  sole  sway  i'  the  house,  —  the  doited  *  crone 

Slow  to  acknowledge,  curtsey  and  abdicate,  —  485 

Was  recognized  of  true  novercal  •  type. 

Dragon  and  devil.     His  brother  Girolamo 

Came  next  in  order :  priest  was  he?    The  worse! 

No  way  of  winning  him  to  leave  his  mumps 

And  help  the  laugh  against  old  ancestry  490 

And  formal  habits  long  since  out  of  date. 

Letting  his  youth  be  patterned  on  the  mode 

Approved  of  where  Violante  laid  down  law. 

Or  did  he  brighten  up  by  way  of  change, 

Dispose  himself  for  anability?  495 

The  malapert,  too  complaisant  by  half 

To  the  alarmed  young  novice  of  a  bride! 

Let  him  go  buzz,  betake  himself  elsewhere 

Nor  singe  his  fly-wings  in  the  candle-flame! 

Four  months'  probation  of  this  purgatory,  500 

Dog-snap  and  cat-claw,  curse  and  counterblast^ 

The  devil's  self  were  sick  of  his  own  din ; 

And  Pietro,  after  trumpeting  huge  wrongs 

At  church  and  market-place,  pillar  and  post, 

Square's  comer,  street's  end,  now  the  palace-step  505 

And  now  the  wine-house  bench  —  whUe,  on  her  side, 

Violante  up  and  down  was  voluble 

In  whatsoever  pair  of  ears  would  perk 

From  goody,  gossip,  cater-cousin  *  and  sib,* 

Curious  to  peep  at  the  inside  of  things  510 

^  K<r^»ttr#.*  juice  of  sour  apples  or  unripe        *  Novercal :    in   the  manner  of  a   step' 
grapes.  mother. 

*  Doited:    adjective  finnned  from  doit,  a        *  Cater-cousin  :  a  cousin  within  die  first 
Scotch  coin  ot  small  Talue = worthless.  four  degrees  of  kindred. 

*  Sii  :  a  blood  relation. 


And  catch  in  the  act  pretentious  poverty 

At  its  wits^  end  to  keep  appearance  up, 

Make  both  ends  meet,  —  nothing  the  vulgar  loves 

Like  what  this  couple  pitched  them  right  and  left. 

Then,  their  worst  done  that  way,  both  struck  tent,  marched :     515 

—  Renounced  their  share  o^  the  bargain,  flung  what  dues 

Guido  was  bound  to  pay,  in  Guidons  face. 

Left  their  hearts'-darling,  treasure  of  the  twain 

And  so  forth,  the  poor  inexperienced  bride, 

To  her  own  devices,  bade  Arezzo  rot,  520 

Cursed  life  signorial,  and  sought  Rome  once  more. 

I  see  the  comment  ready  on  your  lip, 

"  The  better  fortune,  Guido's  —  free  at  least 

By  this  defection  of  the  foolish  pair. 

He  could  begin  make  profit  in  some  sort  525 

Of  the  ^oung  bride  and  the  new  quietness. 

Lead  his  own  life  now,  henceforth  breathe  unplagued/* 

Could  he?    You  know  the  sex  like  Guido's  self. 

Learn  the  Violante-nature! 

Once  in  Rome, 
By  way  of  helping  Guido  lead  such  life,  530 

Her  first  act  to  inaugurate  return 
Was,  she  got  pricked  in  conscience :  Jubilee  ^ 
Gave  her  the  hint.     Our  Pope,  as  kind  as  just^ 
Attained  his  eighty  years,  announced  a  boon 
Should  make  us  bless  the  fact,  held  Jubilee  —  535 

Short  shrift,  prompt  pardon  for  the  light  offence 
And  no  rough  dealing  with  the  regular  crime 
So  this  occasion  were  not  suffered  slip  — 
Otherwise,  sins  commuted  as  before. 

Without  the  least  abatement  in  the  price.  540 

Now,  who  had  thought  it  ?    All  this  while,  it  seems, 
Our  sage  Violante  had  a  sin  of  a  sort 
She  must  compound  for  now  or  not  at  all. 
Now  be  the  ready  riddance!     She  confessed 
Pompilia  was  a  fable  not  a  fact :  545 

She  never  bore  a  child  in  her  whole  life. 
Had  this  child  been  a  changeling,  that  were  grace 
In  some  degree,  exchange  is  hardly  theft, 
You  take  your  stand  on  truth  ere  leap  your  lie : 
Here  was  all  lie,  no  touch  of  truth  at  all,  550 

All  the  lie  hers  —  not  even  Pietro  guessed 
He  was  as  childless  still  as  twelve  years  since. 
The  babe  had  been  a  find  i'  the  filth-heap.  Sir, 

*  yubilet :  held  every  twenty-fifth  year. 


Catch  from  the  kennel  I    There  was  found  at  Rome^ 

Down  in  the  deepest  of  our  social  dregs,  555 

A  woman  who  professed  the  wanton^s  trade 

Under  the  requisite  thin  coverture, 

Communis  meretrix  and  washer-wife : 

The  creature  thus  conditioned  found  by  chance 

Motherhood  like  a  jewel  in  the  muck,  560 

And  straightway  either  trafficked  with  her  prize 

Or  listened  to  the  tempter  and  let  be, — 

Made  pact  abolishing  her  place  and  part 

In  womankind,  beast-fellowship  indeed. 

She  sold  this  babe  eight  months  before  its  birth  565 

To  our  Violante,  Pietro's  honest  spouse. 

Well-famed  and  widely-instanced  as  that  crown 

To  the  husband,  virtue  in  a  woman^s  shape. 

She  it  was,  bought,  paid  for,  passed  off  the  thing 

As  very  flesh  and  blood  and  child  of  her  570 

Despite  the  flagrant  fifty  years, — and  why? 

Partly  to  please  old  Pietro,  fill  his  cup 

With  wine  at  the  late  hour  when  lees  are  left, 

And  send  him  from  life's  feast  rejoicingly, — 

Partly  to  cheat  the  rightful  heirs,  agape,  575 

Each  uncle's  cousin's  brother's  son  ot  him, 

For  that  same  principal  of  the  usufruct  ^ 

It  vext  him  he  must  die  and  leave  behind. 

Such  was  the  sin  had  come  to  be  confessed. 

Which  of  the  tales,  the  first  or  last,  was  true?  580 

Did  she  so  sin  once,  or,  confessing  now. 

Sin  for  the  first  time?    Either  way  you  will. 

One  sees  a  reason  for  the  cheat :  one  sees 

A  reason  for  a  cheat  in  owning  cheat 

Where  no  cheat  had  been.    What  of  the  revenge?  585 

What  prompted  the  contrition  all  at  once. 

Made  the  avowal  easy,  the  shame  slight? 

Why,  prove  they  but  Pompilia  not  their  child. 

No  child,  no  dowry!  this,  supposed  their  child. 

Had  claimed  what  this,  shown  alien  to  their  blood,  590 

Claimed  nowise :  Guido's  claim  was  throufi^h  his  wife, 

Null  then  and  void  with  hers.    The  biter  bit, 

Do  you  see!    For  such  repayment  of  the  past, 

One  might  conceive  the  penitential  pair 

Ready  to  bring  their  case  before  the  courts,  595 

^  Principal  of  the  usufruct :  'i.i.  the  principal  sum,  in  which  Pietro  had  only  a  life- 
interest  or  usufruct. 


Publish  their  infamy  to  all  the  world 

And,  arm  in  arm,  go  chuckling  thence  content. 

Is  this  your  view  ?    'T  was  Guidons  anyhow 

And  colorable :  he  came  forward  then, 

Protested  in  his  very  bride's  behalf  600 

Against  this  lie  and  all  it  led  to,  least 

Of  all  the  loss  o'  the  dowry ;  no!    From  her 

And  him  alike  he  would  expunge  the  blot, 

Erase  the  brand  of  such  a  bestial  birth. 

Participate  in  no  hideous  heritage  605 

Gathered  from  the  gutter  to  be  garnered  up 

And  glorified  in  a  palace.    Peter  and  Paul! 

But  that  who  likes  may  look  upon  the  pair 

Exposed  in  yonder  church,  and  show  his  skill 

By  saying  which  is  eye  and  which  is  mouth  610 

Thro'  those  stabs  thick  and  threefold, — but  for  that  — 

A  strong  word  on  the  liars  and  their  lie 

Might  crave  expression  and  obtain  it,  Sir! 

— Though  prematurely,  since  there's  more  to  come, 

More  that  will  shake  your  confidence  in  things  615 

Your  cousin  tells  you,  —  may  I  be  so  bold? 

This  makes  the  first  act  of  the  farce, — anon 

The  sombre  element  comes  stealing  in 

Till  all  is  black  or  blood-red  in  the  piece. 

Guido,  thus  made  a  laughing-stock  abroad,  620 

A  proverb  for  the  market-place  at  home. 

Left  alone  with  Pompilia  now,  this  graft 

So  reputable  on  his  ancient  stock, 

This  plague-seed  set  to  fester  his  sound  fiesh. 

What  does  the  Count?    Revenge  him  on  his  wife?  625 

Unfasten  at  all  risks  to  rid  himself 

The  noisome  lazar-badge,  fall  foul  of  fate, 

And,  careless  whether  the  poor  rag  was  'ware 

O'  the  part  it  played,  or  helped  unwittingly, 

Bid  it  go  burn  and  leave  his  frayed  fiesh  free?  630 

Plainly,  did  Guido  open  both  doors  wide, 

Spurn  thence  the  cur-cast  creature  and  clear  scores 

A!s  man  might,  tempted  in  extreme  like  this  ? 

No,  birth  and  breeding,  and  compassion  too 

Saved  her  such  scandS.     She  was  young,  he  thought,        635 

Not  privy  to  the  treason,  punished  most 

r  the  proclamation  of  it ;  why  make  her 

A  party  to  the  crime  she  suffered  by  ? 

Then  the  black  eyes  were  now  her  very  own, 

Not  any  more  Violante's :  let  her  live,  640 


Lose  in  a  new  air,  under  a  new  sun, 
The  taint  of  the  imputed  parentage 
Truly  or  falsely,  take  no  more  the  touch 
Of  Pietro  and  his  partner  anyhow ! 
All  might  go  well  yet. 

So  she  thought,  herself^  645 

It  seems,  since  what  was  her  first  act  and  deed 
When  news  came  how  these  kindly  ones  at  Rome 
Had  stripped  her  naked  to  amuse  the  world 
With  spots  here,  spots  there  and  spots  everywhere  ? 
—  For  I  should  tell  you  that  they  noised  abroad  650 

'Not  merely  the  main  scandal  of  her  birth, 
But  slanders  written,  printed,  published  wide. 
Pamphlets  which  set  forth  all  the  pleasantry 
Of  how  the  promised  glory  was  a  dream. 
The  power  a  bubble,  and  the  wealth  —  why,  dust.  655 

There  was  a  picture,  painted  to  the  life. 
Of  those  rare  doings,  that  superlative 
Initiation  in  magnificence 
Conferred  on  a  poor  Roman  family 

By  favor  of  Arezzo  and  her  first  660 

And  famousest,  the  Franceschini  there. 
You  had  the  Countship  holding  head  aloft 
Bravely  although  bespattered,  shifts  and  straits 
In  keeping  out  o'  the  way  o'  the  wheels  o'  the  world, 
The  comic  of  those  home-contrivances  665 

When  the  old  lady-mother^s  wit  was  taxed 
To  find  six  clamorous  mouths  in  food  more  real 
Than  fruit  plucked  off  the  cobwebbed  family-tree. 
Or  acorns  shed  from  its  gilt  mouldered  frame  — 
Cold  glories  served  up  with  stale  fame  for  sauce.  670 

What,  I  ask, — when  the  drunkenness  of  hate 
Hiccuped  return  for  hospitality. 
Befouled  the  table  they  had  feasted  on, 
Or  say,  —  God  knows  I  '11  not  prejudge  the  case,  — 
Grievances  thus  distorted,  magnified,  675 

Colored  by  quarrel  into  calumny,  — 
What  side  did  our  Pompilia  first  espouse? 
Her  first  deliberate  measure  was  —  she  wrote. 
Pricked  by  some  loyal  impulse,  straight  to  Rome 
And  her  husband's  brother  the  Abate  there,  680 

Who,  having  managed  to  effect  the  match. 
Might  take  men's  censure  for  its  ill  success. 
She  made  a  clean  breast  also  in  her  turn. 
And  qualified  the  couple  properly. 

Since  whose  departure,  hell,  she  said,  was  heaven,  685 

And  the  house,  late  distracted  by  their  peals, 



Quiet  as  Carmel  ^  where  the  lilies  live. 

Herself  had  oftentimes  complained :  but  why? 

All  her  complaints  had  been  their  prompting,  tales 

Trumped  up,  devices  to  this  very  end.  690 

Their  game  had  been  to  thwart  her  husband^s  love 

And  cross  his  will,  malign  his  words  and  ways. 

To  reach  this  issue,  furnish  this  pretence 

For  impudent  withdrawal  from  their  bond,  — 

Theft,  indeed  murder,  since  they  meant  no  less  695 

Whose  last  injunction  to  her  simple  self 

Had  been  —  what  parents'-precept  do  you  think? 

That  she  should  follow  after  with  all  speed. 

Fly  from  her  husband^s  house  clandestinely, 

Jom  them  at  Rome  again,  but  first  of  all  700 

Pick  up  a  fresh  companion  in  her  flight. 

So  putting  youth  and  beauty  to  fit  use,  — 

Some  gay  dare-devil  cloak-and-rapier  spark 

Capable  of  adventure, — helped  by  whom 

She,  some  fine  eve  when  lutes  were  in  the  air,  705 

Having  put  poison  in  the  posset  *-cup. 

Laid  hands  on  money,  jewels  and  the  like, 

And,  to  conceal  the  thing  with  more  effect, 

By  way  of  parting  benediction  too, 

Fired  the  house,  —  one  would  finish  famously  710 

r  the  tumult,  slip  out,  scurry  off  and  away 

And  turn  up  merrily  at  home  once  more. 

Fact  this,  and  not  a  dream  o^  the  devil,  Sir! 

And  more  than  this,  a  fact  none  dare  dispute. 

Word  for  word,  such  a  letter  did  she  write,  715 

And  such  the  Abate  read,  nor  simply  read 

But  gave  all  Rome  to  ruminate  upon, 

In  answer  to  such  charges  as,  I  say. 

The  couple  sought  to  be  beforehand  with. 

The  cause  thus  carried  to  the  courts  at  Rome,  720 

Guido  away,  the  Abate  had  no  choice 

But  stand  forth,  take  his  absent  brother^s  part. 

Defend  the  honor  of  himself  beside. 

He  made  what  head  he  might  against  the  pair, 

Maintained  Pompilia^s  birth  legitimate  725 

And  all  her  rights  intact  —  hers,  Guido's  now : 

And  so  far  by  his  policy  turned  their  flank, 

(The  enemy  being  beforehand  in  the  place) 

That,  —  though  the  courts  allowed  the  cheat  for  fact, 

>  Carmel :  Mount  Cannel  in  Syria,  where        *  Pottti  :  a  drink  made  of  milk  and  wiiMb 
the  Carmelite  order  of  mendicant  monks  was 
said  to  be  established.    They  wore  white. 


Suffered  Violante  to  parade  her  shame,  730 

Publish  her  infamy  to  hearths  content, 

And  let  the  tale  o^  the  feigned  birth  pass  for  proved,  — 

Yet  they  stopped  there,  refused  to  intervene 

And  dispossess  the  innocents,  befooled 

By  gifts  o'  the  guilty,  at  guilt^s  new  caprice.  735 

They  would  not  take  away  the  dowry  now 

Wrongfully  given  at  first,  nor  bar  at  all 

Succession  to  the  aforesaid  usufruct. 

Established  on  a  fraud,  nor  play  the  game 

Of  Pietro^s  child  and  now  not  Pietro's  chUd  740 

As  it  might  suit  the  gamester^s  purpose.    Thus 

Was  justice  ever  ridiculed  in  Rome : 

Such  be  the  double  verdicts  favored  here 

Which  send  away  both  parties  to  a  suit 

Nor  puffed  up  nor  cast  down,  —  for  each  a  crumb  745 

Of  right,  for  neither  of  them  the  whole  loaf. 

Whence,  on  the  Comparini's  part,  appeal  — 

Counter-appeal  on  Guidons,  —  that 's  the  game : 

And  so  the  matter  stands,  even  to  this  hour. 

Bandied  as  balls  are  in  a  tennis-court,  750 

And  so  might  stand,  unless  some  heart  broke  first. 

Till  doomsday. 

Leave  it  thus,  and  now  revert 
To  the  old  Arezzo  whence  we  moved  to  Rome. 
We  Ve  had  enough  o'  the  parents,  false  or  true, 
Now  for  a  touch  o^  the  daughter's  quality.  755 

The  start 's  fair  henceforth,  every  obstacle 
Out  of  the  young  wife's  footpath,  she 's  alone. 
Left  to  walk  warily  now :  how  does  she  walk  ? 
Why,  once  a  dwelling's  threshold  marked  and  crossed 
In  rubric  by  the  enemy  on  his  rounds  760 

As  eligible,  as  fit  place  of  prey. 
Baffle  nim  henceforth,  keep  him  out  who  can! 
Stop  up  the  door  at  the  first  hint  of  hoof. 
Presently  at  the  window  taps  a  horn. 

And  Satan 's  by  your  fireside,  never  fear!  765 

Pompilia,  left  alone  now,  found  herself; 
Found  herself  young  too,  sprightly,  fair  enough. 
Matched  with  a  husband  old  beyond  his  age 
(Though  that  was  something  like  four  times  her  own) 
Because  of  cares  past,  present  and  to  come :  770 

Found  too  the  house  dull  and  its  inmates  dead, 
So,  looked  outside  for  light  and  life. 

And  love 
Did  in  a  trice  turn  up  with  life  and  light,  — 
The  man  with  the  aureole,  sympathy  made  flesh, 


The  all-consoling  Caponsacchi,  Sir!    •  775 

A  priest — what  else  should  the  consoler  be? 

With  goodly  shoulderblade  and  proper  leg, 

A  portly  make  and  a  symmetric  shape, 

And  curls  that  clustered  to  the  tonsure  quite. 

This  was  a  bishop  in  the  bud,  and  now  780 

A  canon  full-blown  so  far :  priest,  and  priest 

Nowise  exorbitantly  overworked. 

The  courtly  Christian,  not  so  much  Saint  Paul 

As  a  saint  of  Caesar's  household :  there  posed  he 

Sending  his  god-glance  after  his  shot  shaft,  785 

Apollos  turned  Apollo,  while  the  snake 

Pompilia  writhed  transfixed  through  all  her  spires. 

He,  not  a  visitor  at  Guidons  house. 

Scarce  an  acquaintance,  but  in  prime  request 

With  the  magnates  of  Arezzo,  was  seen  here,  790 

Heard  there,  felt  everywhere  in  Guido's  path 

If  Guidons  wife's  path  be  her  husband's  too. 

Now  he  threw  comfits  at  the  theatre 

Into  her  lap,  — what  harm  in  Carnival? 

Now  he  pressed  close  till  his  foot  touched  her  gown,  795 

His  hand  brushed  hers, — how  help  on  promenade? 

And,  ever  on  .weighty  business,  found  his  steps 

Incline  to  a  certain  haunt  of  doubtful  fame 

Which  fronted  Guido's  palace  by  mere  chance ; 

While  —  how  do  accidents  sometimes  combine!  —  800 

Pompilia  chose  to  cloister  up  her  charms 

Just  in  a  chamber  that  o'erlooked  the  street. 

Sat  there  to  pray,  or  peep  thence  at  mankind. 

This  passage  of  arms  and  wits  amused  the  town. 

At  last  the  husband  lifted  eyebrow,  —  bent  805 

On  day-book  and  the  study  how  to  wring 

Half  the  due  vintage  from  the  worn-out  vines 

At  the  villa,  tease  a  quarter  the  old  rent 

From  the  farmstead,  tenants  swore  would  tumble  soon,  — 

Pricked  up  his  ear  a-singing  day  and  night  810 

With  "  ruin,  ruin ; "  —  and  so  surprised  at  last  — 

Why,  what  else  but  a  titter?    Up  he  jumps. 

Back  to  mind  come  those  scratchings  at  the  grange, 

Prints  of  the  paw  about  the  outhouse ;  rife 

In  his  head  at  once  again  are  word  and  wink,  815 

Mum  here  and  budget  ^  there,  the  smell  o'  the  fox, 

The  musk  o'  the  gallant.     "Friends,  there's  falseness  here! " 

The  proper  help  of  friends  in  such  a  strait 
^Mum,  Budget :  see  Shakespeare, "  Meny  Whres  of  Windsor,"  V.  U.  7. 


Is  waggery,  the  world  over.    Laugh  him  free 

O^  the  reeular  jealous-fit  that  ^s  incident  820 

To  all  old  husbands  that  wed  brisk  young  wives, 

And  he  ^11  go  duly  docile  all  his  days. 

"  Somebody  courts  your  wife,  Count?    Where  and  when? 

How  and  why?    Mere  horn-madness :  have  a  care! 

Your  lady  loves  her  own  room,  sticks  to  it,  825 

Locks  herself  in  for  hours,  you  say  yourself. 

And  —  what,  it  ^s  Caponsacchi  means  you  harm  ? 

The  Canon  ?    We  caress  him,  he 's  the  world's, 

A  man  of  such  acceptance  —  never  dream. 

Though  he  were  fifty  times  the  fox  you  fear,  830 

He  'd  risk  his  brush  for  vour  particular  chick. 

When  the  wide  town 's  nis  hen-roost!    Fie  o'  the  fool! " 

So  they  dispensed  their  comfort  of  a  kind. 

Guido  at  last  cried  "  Something  is  in  the  air, 

Under  the  earth,  some  plot  against  my  peace  835 

The  trouble  of  eclipse  hangs  overhead ; 

How  it  should  come  of  that  officious  orb 

Your  Canon  in  my  system,  you  must  say : 

I  say — that  from  the  pressure  of  this  spring 

Began  the  chime  and  interchange  of  bells,  840 

Ever  one  whisper,  and  one  whisper  more, 

And  just  one  whisper  for  the  silvery  last, 

Till  all  at  once  a-row  the  bronze-throats  burst 

Into  a  larum  both  significant 

And  sinister :  stop  it  I  must  and  will.  845 

Let  Caponsacchi  take  his  hand  away 

From  the  wire! — disport  himself  in  other  paths 

Than  lead  precisely  to  my  palace-^te.  — 

Look  where  he  likes  except  one  window's  way 

Where,  cheek  on  hand,  and  elbow  set  on  sill,  850 

Happens  to  lean  and  say  her  litanies 

Every  day  and  all  day  long,  just  my  wife  — 

Or  wife  and  Caponsacchi  may  fare  the  worse!  " 

Admire  the  man's  simplicity,  "  I  '11  do  this, 

I  '11  not  have  that,  I  '11  punish  and  prevent! "  —  855 

'T  is  easy  saying.     But  to  a  fray,  you  see. 

Two  parties  go.    The  badger  shows  his  teeth  : 

The  fox  nor  lies  down  sheep-like  nor  dares  fight. 

Oh,  the  wife  knew  the  appropriate  warfare  well, 

The  way  to  put  suspicion  to  the  blush !  860 

At  first  hint  of  remonstrance,  up  and  out 

I'  the  face  of  the  world,  you  found  her :  she  could  speak. 

State  her  case,  —  Franceschini  was  a  name, 

Guido  had  his  full  share  of  foes  and  friends  — 

Why  should  not  she  call  these  to  arbitrate?  865 


She  bade  the  Governor  do  governance, 

Cried  out  on  the  Archbishop,  —  why,  there  now, 

Take  him  for  sample!    Three  successive  times. 

Had  he  to  reconduct  her  by  main-force 

From  where  she  took  her  station  opposite  870 

His  shut  door,  —  on  the  public  steps  thereto, 

Wringing  her  hands,  when  he  came  out  to  see, 

And  shrieking  all  her  wrongs  forth  at  his  foot,  — 

Back  to  the  husband  and  the  house  she  fled : 

Judge  if  that  husband  warmed  him  in  the  face  875 

Of  mends  or  frowned  on  foes  as  heretofore! 

Judge  if  he  missed  the  natural  grin  of  folk, 

Or  lacked  the  customary  compliment 

Of  cap  and  bells,  the  luckless  husband^s  fit! 

So  it  went  on  and  on  till  —  who  was  right?  880 

One  merry  April  morning,  Guido  woke 

After  the  cuckoo,  so  late,  near  noonday, 

With  an  inordinate  yawning  of  the  jaws. 

Ears  plugged,  eyes  gummed  together,  palate,  tongue 

And  teeth  one  mud-paste  made  of  poppy-milk ;  885 

And  found  his  wife  Aown,  his  scritoire  the  worse 

For  a  rummage, — jewelry  that  was,  was  not. 

Some  money  there  had  made  itself  wings  too, — 

The  door  lay  wide  and  yet  the  servants  slept 

Sound  as  the  dead,  or  dosed  which  does  as  well.  890 

In  short,  Pompilia,  she  who,  candid  soul. 

Had  not  so  much  as  spoken  all  her  life 

To  the  Canon,  nay,  so  much  as  peeped  at  him 

Between  her  fingers  while  she  prayed  in  church, — 

This  lamb-like  innocent  of  fifteen  years  895 

(Such  she  was  grown  to  by  this  time  of  day) 

Had  simply  put  an  opiate  m  the  drink 

Of  the  whole  household  overnight,  and  then 

Got  up  and  gone  about  her  work  secure. 

Laid  hand  on  this  waif  and  the  other  stray,  900 

Spoiled  the  Philistine  and  marched  out  of  doors 

In  company  of  the  Canon  who,  Lord^s  love, 

What  with  his  daily  duty  at  the  church. 

Nightly  devoir  where  ladies  congregate. 

Had  something  else  to  mind,  assure  yourself,  905 

Beside  Pompilia,  paragon  though  she  be. 

Or  notice  if  her  nose  were  sharp  or  blunt ! 

Well,  anyhow,  albeit  impossible. 

Both  of  them  were  together  jollily 

Jaunting  it  Rome-ward,  half-way  there  by  this,  910 

While  Guido  was  left  go  and  get  undrugged, 


Gather  his  wits  up,  groaningly  eive  thanks 
When  neighbors  crowded  round  him  to  condole. 

'*  Ah,"  quoth  a  gossip,  "  well  I  mind  me  now, 

The  Count  did  always  say  he  thought  he  felt  915 

He  feared  as  if  this  very  chance  might  fall ! 

And  when  a  man  of  fifty  finds  his  corns 

Ache  and  his  joints  throb,  and  foresees  a  storm. 

Though  neighbors  laugh  and  say  the  sky  is  clear. 

Let  us  henceforth  believe  him  weatherwise ! "  920 

Then  was  the  story  told,  I  '11  cut  jrou  short : 

All  neighbors  knew :  no  mystery  m  the  world. 

The  lovers  left  at  nightfall  —  over  night 

Had  Caponsacchi  come  to  carry  off 

Pompilia,  —  not  alone,  a  friend  of  his,  925 

One  Guillichini,  the  more  conversant 

With  Guido's  housekeeping  that  he  was  just 

A  cousin  of  Guido's  and  might  play  a  prank  — 

(Have  not  you  too  a  cousin  that 's  a  wag? ) 

—  Lord  and  a  Canon  also,  —  what  would  you  have?  930 

Such  are  the  red-clothed  milk-swollen  poppy-heads 

That  stand  and  stiffen  'mid  the  wheat  o'  the  Church  ! — 

This  worthy  came  to  aid,  abet  his  best. 

And  so  the  house  was  ransacked,  booty  bagged. 

The  lady  led  downstairs  and  out  of  doors  935 

Guided  and  guarded  till,  the  city  passed, 

A  carriage  lay  convenient  at  the  gate. 

Good-bye  to  the  friendly  Canon ;  the  loving  one 

Could  peradventure  do  the  rest  himself. 

In  jumps  Pompilia,  after  her  the  priest,  940 

"Whip,  driver!     Money  makes  the  mare  to  go, 

And  we  Ve  a  bagful.     Take  the  Roman  road!" 

So  said  the  neighbors.     This  was  eight  hours  since. 

Guido  heard  all,  swore  the  befitting  oaths. 

Shook  off  the  relics  of  his  poison-drench,  945 

Got  horse,  was  fairly  started  in  pursuit 

With  never  a  friend  to  follow,  found  the  track 

Fast  enough,  't  was  the  straight  Perugia  way. 

Trod  soon  upon  their  very  heels,  too  late 

By  a  minute  only  at  Camoscia,  reached  950 

Chiusi,  Foligno,  ever  the  fugitives 

Just  ahead,  just  out  as  he  galloped  in, 

Getting  the  good  news  ever  fresh  and  fresh, 

Till,  lo,  at  the  last  stage  of  all,  last  post 

Before  Rome,  —  as  we  say,  in  sight  of  Rome  955 

And  safety  (there 's  impunity  at  Rome 

For  priests,  you  know)  at — what 's  the  little  place?  — 


What  some  call  Castelnuovo,  some  just  call 

The  Osteria,^  because  o'  the  post-house  inn, 

There,  at  the  journey's  all  but  end,  it  seems,  960 

Triumph  deceived  them  and  undid  them  both, 

Secure  they  might  foretaste  felicity 

Nor  fear  surprisal :  so,  they  were  surprised. 

There  did  they  halt  at  early  evening,  there 

Did  Guido  overtake  them :  \  was  day-break ;  965 

He  came  in  time  enough,  not  time  too  much, 

Since  in  the  courtyard  stood  the  Canon^s  self 

Urging  the  drowsy  stable-grooms  to  haste 

Harness  the  horses,  have  the  journey  end. 

The  trifling  four-hours'-running,  so  reach  Rome.  970 

And  the  other  runaway,  the  wife?    Upstairs, 

Still  on  the  couch  where  she  had  spent  the  night, 

One  couch  in  one  room,  and  one  room  for  both. 

So  gained  they  six  hours,  so  were  lost  thereby. 

Sir,  what 's  the  sequel  ?    Lover  and  beloved  975 

Fall  on  their  knees?    No  impudence  serves  here? 

They  beat  their  breasts  and  beg  for  easy  death, 

Confess  this,  that  and  the  other?  —  anyhow 

Confess  there  wanted  not  some  likelihood 

To  the  supposition  so  preposterous,  980 

That,  O  Pompilia,  thy  sequestered  eyes 

Had  noticed,  straying  o'er  the  prayerbook's  edge, 

More  of  the  Canon  than  that  black  his  coat. 

Buckled  his  shoes  were,  broad  his  hat  of  brim : 

And  that,  O  Canon,  thy  religious  care  985 

Had  breathed  too  soft  a  benedicite 

To  banish  trouble  from  a  lady's  breast 

So  lonely  and  so  lovely,  nor  so  lean! 

This  you  expect?    Indeed,  then,  much  you  err. 

Not  to  such  ordinary  end  as  this  990 

Had  Caponsacchi  flung  the  cassock  far. 

Doffed  the  priest,  donned  the  perfect  cavalier. 

The  die  was  cast :  over  shoes  over  boots : 

And  just  as  she,  I  presently  shall  show, 

Pompilia,  soon  looked  Helen  to  the  life,  995 

Recumbent  upstairs  in  her  pink  and  white. 

So,  in  the  inn-yard,  bold  as  't  were  Troy-town, 

There  strutted  Paris  in  correct  costume. 

Cloak,  cap  and  feather,  no  appointment  missed, 

Even  to  a  wicked-looking  sword  at  side,  1000 

He  seemed  to  find  and  feel  familiar  at. 

Nor  wanted  words  as  ready  and  as  big 

*  Orteriu  :  a  taTern  or  imi. 


As  the  part  he  played,  the  bold  abashless  one. 

"  I  interposed  to  save  your  wife  from  death, 

Yourself  from  shame,  the  true  and  only  shame :  1005 

Ask  your  own  conscience  else !  —  or,  failing  that, 

What  I  have  done  I  answer,  anywhere. 

Here,  if  you  will ;  you  see  I  have  a  sword : 

Or,  since  I  have  a  tonsure  as  you  taunt, 

At  Rome,  by  all  means,  —  priests  to  try  a  priest.  loio 

Only,  speak  where  your  wife's  voice  can  reply!  ** 

And  then  he  fingered  at  the  sword  aeain. 

So,  Guido  called,  in  aid  and  witness  both. 

The  Public  Force.     The  Commissary  came, 

Officers  also ;  they  secured  the  priest ;  1015 

Then,  for  his  more  confusion,  mounted  up 

With  him,  a  guard  on  either  side,  the  stair 

To  the  bed-room  where  still  slept  or  feigned  a  sleep 

His  paramour  and  Guidons  wife :  in  burst 

The  company  and  bade  her  wake  and  rise.  1020 

Her  defence?    This.     She  woke,  saw,  sprang  upright 

r  the  midst  and  stood  as  terrible  as  truth, 

Sprang  to  her  husband's  side,  caught  at  the  sword 

Tnat  hung  there  useless,  —  since  tney  held  each  hand 

O'  the  lover,  had  disarmed  him  properly,  —  1025 

And  in  a  moment  out  fiew  the  bright  thing 

Full  in  the  face  of  Guido :  but  for  help 

O'  the  guards  who  held  her  back  and  pinioned  her 

With  pains  enough,  she  had  finished  you  my  tale 

With  a  flourish  of  red  all  round  it,  pinked  her  man  1030 

Prettily ;  but  she  fought  them  one  to  six. 

They  stopped  that,  —  but  her  tongue  continued  free : 

She  spat  forth  such  invective  at  her  spouse, 

O'erfrothed  him  with  such  foam  of  murderer, 

Thief,  pandar  —  that  the  popular  tide  soon  turned^  1035 

The  favor  of  the  verv  sbirri^  straight 

Ebbed  from  the  husband,  set  toward  his  wife. 

People  cried  "  Hands  off,  pay  a  priest  respect! " 

And  "  persecuting  fiend  "  and  "  martyred  saint " 

Began  to  lead  a  measure  from  lip  to  lip.  1040 

But  fieicts  are  facts  and  flinch  not ;  stubborn  things. 

And  the  question  "  Prithee,  friend,  how  comes  my  purse 

r  the  poke  of  jy^ou  ?  "  —  admits  of  no  reply. 

Here  was  a  pnest  found  out  in  masquerade, 

A  wife  caught  playing  truant  if  no  more ;  1045 

*  Sbirri:  papal  police. 


While  the  Count,  mortified  in  mien  enough. 

And,  nose  to  face,  an  added  palm  in  length, 

Was  plain  writ  "  husband  "  every  piece  of  him : 

Capture  once  made,  release  could  hardly  be. 

Beside,  the  prisoners  both  made  appeal,  1050 

**  Take  us  to  Rome! " 

Taken  to  Rome  they  were ; 
The  husband  trooping  after,  piteously. 
Tail  between  legs,  no  talk  of  triumph  now — 
No  honor  set  firm  on  its  feet  once  more 
On  two  dead  bodies  of  the  guilty,  —  nay,  1055 

No  dubious  salve  to  honor's  broken  pate 
From  chance  that,  after  all,  the  hurt  might  seem . 
A  skin-deep  matter,  scratch  that  leaves  no  scar : 
For  Guido's  first  search,  —  ferreting,  poor  soul, 
Here,  there  and  everywhere  in  the  vile  place  1060 

Abandoned  to  him  when  their  backs  were  turned, 
Found,  —  furnishing  a  last  and  best  regale,  — 
All  the  love-letters  bandied  'twixt  the  pair 
Since  the  first  timid  trembling  into  life 

O'  the  love-star  till  its  stand  at  fiery  fiill.  1065 

Mad  prose,  mad  verse,  fears,  hopes,  triumph,  despair. 
Avowal,  disclaimer,  plans,  dates,  names,  —  was  nought 
Wanting  to  prove,  if  proof  consoles  at  all. 
That  this  had  been  but  the  fifth  act  o'  the  piece 
Whereof  the  due  proemium,  months  ago  1070 

These  playwrights  had  put  forth,  and  ever  since 
Matured  the  middle,  added  'neath  his  nose. 
He  might  go  cross  himself:  the  case  was  clear. 

Therefore  to  Rome  with  the  clear  case ;  there  plead 

Each  party  its  best,  and  leave  law  do  each  right,  1075 

Let  law  shine  forth  and  show,  as  God  in  heaven, 

Vice  prostrate,  virtue  pedestalled  at  last. 

The  triumph  of  truth!    What  else  shall  glad  our  gaze 

When  once  authority  has  knit  the  brow 

And  set  the  brain  behind  it  to  decide  1080 

Between  the  wolf  and  sheep  turned  litigants  ? 

"This  is  indeed  a  business!"  law  shook  head: 

"  A  husband  charges  hard  things  on  a  wife. 

The  wife  as  hard  o'  the  husband :  whose  fault  here? 

A  wife  that  flies  her  husband's  house,  does  wrong:  1085 

The  male  friend's  interference  looks  amiss. 

Lends  a  suspicion :  but  suppose  the  wife. 

On  the  other  hand,  be  jeopardized  at  home  — 

Nay,  that  she  simply  hold,  ill-groundedly, 

An  apprehension  she  is  jeopardized, —  1090 

And  further,  if  the  friend  partake  the  fear^ 


And,  in  a  commendable  charitv 

Which  tnisteth  all,  trust  her  that  she  mistrusts,  — 

What  do  they  but  obey  law  —  niatural  law? 

Pretence  may  this  be  and  a  cloak  for  sin,  1095 

And  circumstances  that  concur  i^  the  close 

Hint  as  much,  loudly — yet  scarce  loud  enough 

To  drown  the  answer  *  strange  may  yet  be  true : ' 

Innocence  often  looks  like  guiltiness. 

The  accused  declare  that  in  thought,  word  and  deed,         11 00 

Innocent  were  they  both  from  first  to  last 

As  male-babe  haply  laid  by  female-babe 

At  church  on  edge  of  the  baptismal  font 

Together  for  a  minute,  perfect-pure. 

Difficult  to  believe,  yet  possible,  1 105 

As  witness  Joseph,  the  friend's  patron-saint. 

The  night  at  the  inn  —  there  charity  nigh  chokes 

Ere  swallow  what  they  both  asseverate ; 

Though  down  the  gullet  faith  may  feel  it  go. 

When  mindful  of  what  fiight  fatigued  the  flesh  mo 

Out  of  its  faculty  and  fleshliness. 

Subdued  it  to  the  soul,  as  saints  assure : 

So  long  a  flight  necessitates  a  fall 

On  the  first  bed,  though  in  a  lion^s  den. 

And  the  first  pillow,  though  the  lion's  back :  1 1 15 

Difficult  to  believe,  yet  possible. 

Last  come  the  letters!  bundled  beastliness — 

Authority  repugns  ^  give  glance  to  —  nay, 

Turns  head,  and  almost  lets  her  whip-lash  fall ; 

Yet  here  a  voice  cries  *  Respite ! '  from  the  clouds —  1 120 

The  accused,  both  in  a  tale,  protest,  disclaim, 

Abominate  the  horror :  *  Not  my  hand ' 

Asserts  the  friend  —  *  Nor  mine '  chimes  in  the  wife, 

*  Seeing  I  have  no  hand,  nor  write  at  all.' 

Illiterate  —  for  she  goes-  on  to  ask,  1 1 25 

What  if  the  friend  did  pen  now  verse  now  prose. 

Commend  it  to  her  notice  now  and  then.? 

T  was  pearls  to  swine :  she  read  no  more  than  wrote. 

And  kept  no  more  than  read,  for  as  they  fell 

She  ever  brushed  the  burr-like  things  away,  11 30 

Or,  better,  burned  them,  quenched  the  fire  in  smoke. 

As  for  this  fardel,^  filth  and  foolishness. 

She  sees  it  now  the  first  time :  bum  it  too ! 

While  for  his  part  the  friend  vows  ignorance 

Alike  of  what  bears  his  name  and  bears  hers :  1 135 

'T  is  forgery,  a  felon's  masterpiece, 

And,  as  't  is  said  the  fox  still  finds  the  stench, 

*  Reigns  :  opposes.  *  Fardel :  bundle. 


Home-manufacture  and  the  husband^s  work. 

Though  he  confesses,  the  ingenuous  friend^ 

That  certain  missives,  letters  of  a  sort,  1 140 

Flighty  and  feeble,  which  assigned  themselves 

To  the  wife,  no  less  have  fallen,  far  too  oft. 

In  his  path  :  wherefrom  he  understood  just  this  — 

That  were  they  verily  the  lady's  own, 

Why,  she  who  penned  them,  since  he  never  saw  1145 

Save  for  one  minute  the  mere  face  of  her. 

Since  never  had  there  been  the  interchange 

Of  word  with  word  between  them  all  their  life, 

Why,  she  must  be  the  fondest  of  the  frail. 

And  fit,  she  for  the  ^apage''  ^  he  flung,  1150 

Her  letters  for  the  flame  they  went  to  feed! 

But,  now  he  sees  her  face  and  hears  her  speech, 

Much  he  repents  him  if,  in  fancy-freak 

For  a  moment  the  minutest  measurable. 

He  coupled  her  with  the  first  flimsy  word  1155 

O'  the  self-spun  fabric  some  mean  spider-soul 

Furnished  forth :  stop  his  films  and  stamp  on  him  I 

Never  was  such  a  tangled  knottiness. 

But  thus  authority  cuts  the  Gordian  through, 

And  mark  how  her  decision  suits  the  need!  1160 

Here  's  troublesomeness,  scandal  on  both  sides, 

Plenty  of  fault  to  find,  no  absolute  crime : 

Let  each  side  own  its  fault  and  make  amends ! 

What  does  a  priest  in  cavalier's  attire 

Consorting  publicly  with  vagrant  wives  1165 

In  quarters  close  as  the  confessional. 

Though  innocent  of  harm  ?    'T  is  harm  enough : 

Let  him  pay  it,  —  say,  be  relegate  a  good 

Three  years,  to  spend  in  some  place  not  too  for 

Nor  yet  too  near,  midway  Hwixt  near  and  far,  1 170 

Rome  and  Arezzo,  —  Civita  we  choose. 

Where  he  may  lounge  away  time,  live  at  large. 

Find  out  the  proper  fimction  of  a  priest, . 

Nowise  an  exile, —  that  were  punishment, — 

But  one  our  love  thus  keeps  out  of  harm's  way  1175 

Not  more  from  the  husband's  anger  than,  mayhap 

His  own  .  .  .  say,  indiscretion,  waywardness. 

And  wanderings  when  Easter  eves  grow  warm. 

For  the  wife,  —  well,  our  best  step  to  take  with  her, 

On  her  own  showing,  were  to  shift  her  root  11 80 

From  the  old  cold  shade  and  unhappy  soil 

Into  a  generous  ground  that  fronts  the  south 

Where,  since  her  callow  soul,  a-shiver  late, 

*  Apage  :  away  with  thee. 


Craved  simply  warmth  and  called  mere  passers-by 

To  the  rescue,  she  should  have  her  fill  of  shine.  1 185 

Do  house  and  husband  hinder  and  not  help? 

Why  then,  forget  both  and  stay  here  at  peace, 

Come  into  our  community,  enroll 

Herself  along  with  those  good  Convertites,* 

Those  sinners  saved,  those  Maedalens  re-made,  11 90 

Accept  their  ministration,  well  bestow 

Her  body  and  patiently  possess  her  soul. 

Until  we  see  what  better  can  be  done. 

Last  for  the  husband :  if  his  tale  prove  true. 

Well  is  he  rid  of  two  domestic  plagues  —  1 195 

Both  wife  that  ailed,  do  whatsoever  he  would. 

And  friend  of  hers  that  undertook  the  cure. 

See,  what  a  double  load  we  lift  from  breast!  ^ 

Off  he  may  go,  return,  resume  old  life. 

Laugh  at  the  priest  here  and  Pompilia  there  1200 

In  limbo  each  and  punished  for  their  pains, 

And  grateful  tell  the  inquiring  neighborhood  — 

In  Rome,  no  wrong  but  has  its  remedy." 

The  case  was  closed.    Now,  am  I  feir  or  no 

In  what  I  utter?    Do  I  state  the  facts,  1205 

Having  forechosen  a  side?    I  promised  you! 

The  Canon  Caponsacchi,  then,  was  sent 

To  change  his  garb,  re-trim  his  tonsure,  tie 

The  clerkly  silk  round,  every  plait  correct. 

Make  the  impressive  entry  on  his  place  12 10 

Of  rele^tion,  thrill  his  Civita, 

As  Ovid,*  a  like  sufferer  in  the  cause. 

Planted  a  primrose-patch  by  Pontus :  where,  — 

What  with  much  culture  of  the  sonnet-stave 

And  converse  with  the  aborigines,  12 15 

Soft  savagery  of  eyes  unused  to  roll 

And  hearts  that  all  awry  went  pit-a-pat 

And  wanted  setting  right  in  charity,  — 

What  were  a  couple  01  years  to  while  away? 

Pompilia,  as  enjoined,  betook  herself  1220 

To  the  aforesaid  Convertites,  soft  sisterhood 

In  Via  Lungara,  where  the  light  ones  live. 

Spin,  pray,  then  sing  like  linnets  o'er  the  flax. 

"  Anywhere,  anyhow,  out  of  my  husband's  house 

Is  heaven,"  cried  she,  —  was  therefore  suited  so.  1225 

But  for  Count  Guido  Franceschini,  he  — 

*  Convertites  :  an  order  of  nuns  devoted  •  Ovid^  a  like  sufferer  :  he  was  banished 
to  the  rescue  of  others  who*  like  themselves,  by  Augustus  to  Tomis,  on  the  Euxine  Sea, 
have  fallen.  for  some  amour  or  imprudence. 


The  injured  man  thus  righted  —  found  no  heaven 

r  the  house  when  he  returned  there,  I  engage, 

Was  welcomed  by  the  city  turned  upside  down 

In  a  chorus  of  inquiry.     "What,  back  —  you?  1230 

And  no  wife  ?    Left  her  with  the  Penitents  ? 

Ah,  being  young  and  pretty,  't  were  a  shame 

To  have  her  whipped  in  public :  leave  the  job 

To  the  priests  who  understand !  Such  priests  as  yours  — 

(Pontifex  Maximus  whipped  Vestals  once)*  1235 

Our  madcap  Caponsacchi :  think  of  him! 

So,  he  fired  up,  showed  fight  and  skill  offence? 

Ay,  you  drew  sdso,  but  you  did  not  fight ! 

The  wiser,  \  is  a  word  and  a  blow  with  him. 

True  Caponsacchi,  of  old  Head-i'-the-Sack  ^  1240 

That  fought  at  Fiesole  ere  Florence  was : 

He  had  done  enough,  to  firk*  you  were  too  much. 

And  did  the  little  lady  menace  you, 

Make  at  your  breast  with  your  own  harmless  sword? 

The  spitfire!    Well,  thank  God  you're  safe  and  sound,      1245 

Have  kept  the  sixth  commandment  whether  or  no 

The  lady  broke  the  seventh  :  I  only  wish 

I  were  as  saint-like,  could  contain  me  so. 

I,  the  poor  sinner,  fear  I  should  have  left 

Sir  Priest  no  nose-tip  to  turn  up  at  me! "  1250 

You,  Sir,  who  listen  but  interpose  no  word. 

Ask  yourself,  had  you  borne  a  baiting  thus  ? 

Was  it  enough  to  make  a  wise  man  mad  ? 

Oh,  but  I  '11  nave  your  verdict  at  the  end ! 

Well,  not  enough,  it  seems :  such  mere  hurt  falls,  1255 

Frets  awhile,  aches  long,  then  grows  less  and  less, 

And  so  gets  done  with.     Such  was  not  the  scheme 

O'  the  pleasant  Comparini :  on  Guido's  wound 

Ever  in  due  succession,  drop  by  drop. 

Came  slow  distilment  from  the  alembic  here  1260 

Set  on  to  simmer  by  Canidian  hate,* 

Corrosives  keeping  the  man's  misery  raw. 

First  fire-drop, — when  he  thought  to  make  the  best 

O'  the  bad,  to  wring  from  out  the  sentence  passed, 

Poor,  pitiful,  absurd  although  it  were,  1265 

Yet  what  might  eke  him  out  result  enough 

*  Pontifix  Maximus  :  in  ancient  Rome,  >  Firk  :  chastise. 

any  Vestal  Virgin  who  let  the  sacred  fire  go  *  Canidian  hate  :  Canidia  was  a  Neapoli- 

out  was  scourged  by  the  Pontifex  Maximus.  tan  beloved  by  Horace.    When  she  deserted 

*  Caponsacchi :  in  English,  Head  C  the  him,  he  held  her  up  to  contempt  as  an  old 
Sack.    The  family  is  mentioned  in  Dante's  witch* 

Paradise,  XVI. 


And  make  it  worth  while  to  have  had  the  right 

And  not  the  wrong  i^  the  matter  judged  at  Rome. 

Inadequate  her  punishment,  no  less 

Punished  in  some  slight  sort  his  wife  had  been ;  1270 

Then,  punished  for  adultery,  what  else? 

On  such  admitted  crime  he  thought  to  seize, 

And  institute  procedure  in  the  courts 

Which  cut  corruption  of  this  kind  from  man, 

Cast  loose  a  wife  proved  loose  and  castaway :  1275 

He  claimed  in  due  form  a  divorce  at  least. 

This  claim  was  met  now  by  a  counterclaim : 
Pompilia  sought  divorce  from  bed  and  board 
Of  Guido,  whose  outrageous  cruelty, 

Whose  mother^s  malice  and  whose  brother^s  hate  1280 

Were  just  the  white  o^  the  charee,  such  dreadful  depths 
Blackened  its  centre, —  hints  of  worse  than  hate, 
/  Love  from  that  brother,  by  that  Guidons  guile. 
That  mother^s  prompting.     Such  reply  was  made, 
So  was  the  engine  loaded,  wound  up,  sprung  1285 

On  Guido,  who  received  bolt  full  in  breast ; 
But  no  less  bore  up,  giddil}^  perhaps. 
He  had  the  Abate  Paolo  still  in  Rome, 
Brother  and  friend  and  fighter  on  his  side : 
They  rallied  in  a  measure,  met  the  foe  1290 

Manlike,  joined  battle  in  the  public  courts, 
As  if  to  shame  supine  law  from  her  sloth : 
And  waiting  her  award,  let  beat  the  while 
Arezzo's  banter,  Rome's  buffoonery. 

On  this  ear  and  on  that  ear,  deaf  alike,  1295 

Safe  from  worse  outrage.    Let  a  scorpion  nip. 
And  never  mind  till  he  contorts  his  tail ! 
But  there  was  sting  i'  the  creature ;  thus  it  struck. 
Guido  had  thought  in  his  simplicity  — 

That  lying  declaration  of  remorse,  1300 

That  story  of  the  child  which  was  no  child 
And  motherhood  no  motherhood  at  all, 
— That  even  this  sin  might  have  its  sort  of  good 
Inasmuch  as  no  question  more  could  be,  — 
Call  it  felse,  call  the  story  true,  —  no  claim  1305 

Of  further  parentage  pretended  now : 
The  parents  had  ^jured  all  right,  at  least, 
V  the  woman  owned  his  wife :  to  plead  right  still 
Were  to  declare  the  abjuration  false : 

He  was  relieved  from  any  fear  henceforth  1 3 10 

Their  hands  might  touch,  their  breath  defile  again 
Pompilia  with  his  name  upon  her  yet. 
Well;  no :  the  next  news  was,  Pompilia's  health 


Demanded  change  after  full  three  long  weeks 

Spent  in  devotion  with  the  Sisterhood, —  13 15 

Which  rendered  sojourn,  —  so  the  court  opined,  — 

Too  irksome,  since  the  convent^s  walls  were  high 

And  windows  narrow,  nor  was  air  enough 

Nor  light  enough,  but  all  looked  prison-like. 

The  last  thing  which  had  come  into  the  court^s  head.         1320 

Propose  a  new  expedient  therefore,  —  this! 

She  had  demanded  —  had  obtained  indeed, 

By  intervention  of  her  pitying  friends 

Or  perhaps  lovers —  (beauty  in  distress, 

Beauty  whose  tale  is  the  town-talk  beside,  1325 

Never  lacks  friendship's  arm  about  her  neck)  — 

Obtained  remission  of  the  penalty. 

Permitted  transfer  to  some  private  place 

Where  better  air,  more  light,  new  food  might  soothe  — 

Incarcerated  (call  it,  all  the  same)  1330 

At  some  sure  friend^s  house  she  must  keep  inside, 

Be  found  in  at  requirement  fast  enough,  — 

Domus  pro  career e^  in  Roman  style. 

You  keep  the  house  i^  the  main,  as  most  men  do 

And  all  good  women :  but  free  otherwise,  1335 

Should  mends  arrive,  to  lodge  them  and  what  not  ? 

And  such  a  domum^  such  a  dwelling-place, 

Having  all  Rome  to  choose  from,  where  chose  she  ? 

What  house  obtained  Pompilia's  preference? 

Why,  just  the  Comparini's — just,  do  you  mark,  1340 

Theirs  who  renounced  all  part  and  lot  in  her 

So  long  as  Guido  could  be  robbed  thereby. 

And  only  fell  back  on  relationship 

And  found  their  daughter  safe  and  sound  again 

When  that  might  surelier  stab  him :  yes,  the  pair  1345 

Who,  as  I  told  you,  first  had  baited  hook 

With  this  poor  gilded  fly  Pompilia-thing, 

Then  caught  the  fish,  pulled  Guido  to  the  shore 

And  gutted  him, — now  found  afiirther  use 

For  the  bait,  would  trail  the  gauze  wings  yet  again  1350 

r  the  way  of  what  new  swimmer  passed  their  stand. 

They  took  Pompilia  to  their  hiding-place  — 

Not  in  the  heart  of  Rome  as  formerly. 

Under  observance,  subject  to  control — 

But  out  o'  the  way,  —  or  in  the  way,  who  knows?  1355 

That  blind  mute  villa  lurking  by  the  gate 

At  Via  Paulina,  not  so  hard  to  miss 

By  the  honest  eye,  easy  enough  to  find 

In  twilight  by  marauders :  where  perchance 

*  Domus  Pro  car  cere  :  a  house  for  a  prison. 


Some  muffled  Caponsacchi  might  repair,  1360 

Employ  odd  moments  when  he  too  tried  change. 
Found  that  a  Mend^s  abode  was  pleasanter 
Than  relegation,  penance  and  the  rest. 

Come,  here  ^s  the  last  drop  does  its  worst  to  wound 

Here 's  Guido  poisoned  to  the  bone,  you  say  1365 

Your  boasted  still  ^s  full  strain  and  strength :  not  so! 

One  master-squeeze  from  screw  shall  bring  to  birth 

The  hoard  i'  the  heart  o'  the  toad,*  hell's  quintessence. 

He  learned  the  true  convenience  of  the  change, 

And  why  a  convent  lacks  the  cheerful  hearts  1370 

And  helpful  hands  which  female  straits  require. 

When,  in  the  blind  mute  villa  by  the  gate, 

Pompilia  —  what?  sang,  danced,  saw  company? 

—  Gave  birth.  Sir,  to  a  child,  his  son  and  heir. 

Or  Guidons  heir  and  Caponsacchi^s  son.  1375 

I  want  your  word  now :  what  do  you  say  to  this  ? 

What  would  say  little  Arezzo  ancl  ^eat  Rome, 

And  what  did  God  say  and  the  devil  say 

One  at  each  ear  o^  the  main,  the  husband,  now 

The  father?    Why,  the  overburdened  mind  1380 

Broke  down,  what  was  a  brain  became  a  blaze. 

In  fiiry  of  the  moment  —  (that  first  news 

Fell  on  the  Count  among  his  vines,  it  seems. 

Doing  his  farm-work,)  —  why,  he  summoned  steward. 

Called  in  the  first  four  hard  hands  and  stout  hearts  1385 

From  field  and  furrow,  poured  forth  his  appeal. 

Not  to  Rome's  law  and  gospel  any  more, 

But  this  clown  with  a  mother  or  a  wife, 

That  clodpole  with  a  sister  or  a  son : 

And,  whereas  law  and  gospel  held  their  peace,  1390 

What  wonder  if  the  sticks  and  stones  cried  out  ? 

All  five  soon  somehow  found  themselves  at  Rome, 

At  the  villa  door :  there  was  the  warmth  and  light  — 

The  sense  of  life  so  just  an  inch  inside  — 

Some  angel  must  have  whispered  "  one  more  chance  ! "     1395 

He  gave  it :  bade  the  othess  stand  aside : 

Knocked  at  the  door,  —  "Who  is  it  knocks?"  cried  one. 

"  I  will  make,"  surely  Guido's  angel  urged, 

"  One  final  essay,  last  experiment, 

Speak  the  word,  name  the  name  from  out  all  names  1400 

'  Hoard  f  the  heart  o*  the  toad  :  Fenton  stelon,  which,  being  used  as  rings,  gives  fore- 
says,  *'  There  is  to  be  found  in  the  heads  of  warning  against  venom.  See  "As  You  Like 
old  and  great  toads  a  stone  they  call  borax  or    It,"  II.  i.  15. 



Which,  if, — as  doubtless  strong  illusions  are. 

And  strange  disguisings  whereby  truth  seems  false, 

And,  since  I  am  but  man,  I  dare  not  do 

God's  work  until  assured  I  see  with  God,  — 

If  I  should  bring  my  lips  to  breathe  that  name  1405 

And  they  be  innocent,  —  nay,  by  one  mere  touch 

Of  innocence  redeemed  from  utter  guilt,  — 

That  name  will  bar  the  door  and  bid  fate  pass. 

I  will  not  say  Mt  is  a  messenger, 

A  neighbor,  even  a  belated  man,  14 10 

Much  less  your  husband's  friend,  your  husband's  self: ' 

At  such  appeal  the  door  is  bound  to  ope. 

But  I  will  say  "  —  here  's  rhetoric  and  to  spare ! 

Why,  Sir,  the  stumbling-block  is  cursed  and  kicked. 

Block  though  it  be ;  the  name  that  brought  offence  141 5 

Will  bring  offence :  the  burnt  child  dreads  the  fire 

Although  that  fire  feed  on  some  taper-wick 

Which  never  left  the  altar  nor  singed  a  fly : 

And  had  a  harmless  man  tripped  you  by  chance,  ^ 

How  would  you  wait  him,  stand  or  step  aside,  1420 

When  next  you  heard  he  rolled  your  way?    Enough. 

"  Giuseppe  Caponsacchi ! "  Guido  cried ; 

And  open  flew  the  door:  enough  again. 

Vengeance,  you  know,  burst,  like  a  mountain-wave 

That  holds  a  monster  in  it,  over  the  house,  1425 

And  wiped  its  filthy  four  walls  free  at  last 

With  a  wash  of  hell-fire, -»- father,  mother,  wife, 

Killed  them  all,  bathed  his  name  clean  in  their  blood. 

And,  reeking  so,  was  caught,  his  friends  and  he. 

Haled  hither  and  imprisoned  yesternight  1430 

O'  the  day  all  this  was. 

Now,  Sir,  tale  is  told. 
Of  how  the  old  couple  come  to  lie  in  state 
Though  hacked  to  pieces,  —  never,  the  expert  say. 
So  thorough  a  study  of  stabbing  —  while  the  "wife 
(Viper-like,  very  difficult  to  slay)  1435 

Writhes  still  through  every  ring  of  her,  poor  wretch, 
At  the  Hospital  hard  by — survives,  we  '11  hope, 
To  somewhat  purify  her  putrid  soul 
By  full  confession,  make  so  much  amends 
While  time  lasts ;  since  at  day's  end  die  she  must.  1440 

For  Caponsacchi,  —  why,  they  '11  have  him  here, 

As  hero  of  the  adventure,  who  so  fit 

To  figure  in  the  coming  Carnival? 

'T  will  make  the  fortune  of  whate'er  saloon 


Hears  him  recount,  with  helpful  cheek,  and  eye  1445 

Hotly  indignant  now,  now  dewy-dimmed, 

The  incidents  of  flight,  pursuit,  surprise, 

Capture,  with  hints  of  kisses  all  between  — 

While  Guido,  wholly  unromantic  spouse. 

No  longer  fit  to  laugh  at  since  the  blood  1450 

Gave  the  broad  farce  an  all  too  brutal  air, 

Why,  he  and  those  four  luckless  friends  of  his 

May  tumble  in  the  straw  this  bitter  day  — 

Laid  by  the  heels  i^  the  New  Prison,  I  hear. 

To  bide  their  trial,  since  trial,  and  for  the  life,  1455 

Follows  if  but  for  formes  sake :  yes,  indeed! 

But  with  a  certain  issue :  no  dispute, 

"  Try  him,"  bids  law :  formalities  oblige : 

But  as  to  the  issue,  —  look  me  in  the  &ce!  — 

If  the  law  thinks  to  find  them  ^ilty.  Sir,  1460 

Master  or  men — touch  one  hair  of  the  five. 

Then  I  say  in  the  name  of  all  that  *s  left 

Of  honor  in  Rome,  civility  i'  the  world 

Whereof  Rome  boasts  herself  the  central  source, — 

There  ^s  an  end  to  all  hope  of  justice  more.  1465 

Astraea^  's  gone  indeed,  let  hope  go  too! 

Who  is  it  dares  impugn  the  natural  law, 

Deny  God's  word  "  the  faithless  wife  shall  die  "? 

What,  are  we  blind?    How  can  we  fail  to  learn 

This  crowd  of  miseries  make  the  man  a  mark,  1470 

Accumulate  on  one  devoted  head 

For  our  example  ?  —  yours  and  mine  who  read 

Its  lesson  thus  —  "  Henceforward  let  none  dare 

Stand,  like  a  natural  in  the  public  way. 

Letting  the  very  urchins  twitch  his  beard  1475 

And  tweak  his  nose,  to  earn  a  nickname  so, 

Be  styled  male-Grissel  ^  or  else  modern  Job! " 

Had  Guido,  in  the  twinkling  of  an  eye. 

Summed  up  the  reckoning,  promptly  paid  himself. 

That  morning  when  he  came  up  with  the  pair  1480 

At  the  wayside  inn,  —  exacted  his  just  debt 

By  aid  of  what  first  mattock,  pitchfork,  axe 

Came  to  hand  in  the  helpful  stable-yard, 

And  with  that  axe,  if  providence  so  pleased. 

Cloven  each  head,  by  some  Rolando-stroke,'  1485 

^  Asiraa  :    virgin-goddess     of    justice,  Chaucer's  Clerk  of  Ozenford's  tale,  a  type  of 

daughter  of  Zeus  and  Themis,  who  departed  female  patience. 

from  earth  at  the  close  of  the  golden  age  and        >  Rolando-stroke  :  Roland,  the  mediaeval 

became  the  constellation  Virgo.  hero  of  romance. 

^MaU-Grwil:   Griselda,  the  heroine  of 


In  one  dean  cut  from  crown  to  clavicle,^ 

—  Slain  the  priest-eallant,  the  wife-paramour, 

Sticking,  for  all  defence,  in  each  skulPs  cleft 

The  rhyme  and  reason  of  the  stroke  thus  dealt, 

To-wit,  those  letters  and  last  evidence  1490 

Of  shame,  each  package  in  its  proper  place,  — 

Bidding,  who  pitied,  undistend  the  skulls,  — 

I  say,  tne  world  had  praised  the  man.     But  no! 

That  were  too  plain,  too  straight,  too  simply  just! 

He  hesitates,  calls  law  forsooth  to  help.  1495 

And  law,  distasteful  to  who  calls  in  law 

When  honor  is  beforehand  and  would  serve, 

What  wonder  if  law  hesitate  in  turn. 

Plead  her  disuse  to  calls  o'  the  kind,  reply 

(Smiling  a  little)  "T  is  yourself  assess  1500 

The  worth  of  what 's  lost,  sum  of  damage  done. 

What  you  touched  with  so  light  a  finger-tip. 

You  whose  concern  it  was  to  grasp  the  thing, 

Why  must  law  gird  herself  and  grapple  with .? 

Law,  alien  to  the  actor  whose  warm  blood  1505 

Asks  heat  from  law  whose  veins  run  lukewarm  milk,  — 

What  you  dealt  lightly  with,  shall  law  make  out 

Heinous  forsooth?" 

Sir,  what 's  the  good  of  law 
In  a  case  o^  the  kind?  None,  as  she  all  but  says. 
Call  in  law  when  a  neighbor  breaks  your  fence,  15 10 

Cribs  from  your  field,  tampers  with  rent  or  lease. 
Touches  the  purse  or  pocket,  —  but  wooes  your  wife  ? 
No :  take  the  old  way  trod  when  men  were  men ! 
Guido  preferred  the  new  path,  —  for  his  pains, 
Stuck  in  a  quagmire,  floundered  worse  and  worse  15 15 

Until  he  managed  somehow  scramble  back 
Into  the  safe  sure  rutted  road  once  more. 
Revenged  his  own  wrong  like  a  gentleman. 
Once  back  ^mid  the  familiar  prints,  no  doubt 
He  made  too  rash  amends  for  his  first  fault,  1520 

Vaulted  too  loftily  over  what  barred  him  late. 
And  lit  i'  the  mire  again,  —  the  common  chance, 
The  natural  over-energy :  the  deed 
Maladroit  yields  three  deaths  instead  of  one, 
And  one  life  left :  for  where 's  the  Canon's  corpse?  1525 

All  which  is  the  worse  for  Guido,  but,  be  frank  — 
The  better  for  you  and  me  and  all  the  world. 
Husbands  of  wives,  especially  in  Rome. 
The  thing  is  put  right,  in  the  old  place,  —  ay, 
The  rod  hangs  on  its  nail  behind  the  door,  1530 

^  Clavicle  :  collar-bone. 

HALF'RpfdE.  69 

Fresh  from  the  brine :  a  matter  I  commend 

To  the  notice,  during  Carnival  that  ^s  near, 

Of  a  certain  what  Vhis-name  and  jackanapes 

Somewhat  too  civil  of  eves  with  lute  and  song 

About  a  house  here,  where  I  keep  a  wife.  1535 

(You,  being  his  cousin,  may  go  tell  him  so.) 




[That  side  of  public  opinion  which  is  predisposed  to  take  the  weaker  part  and 
to  look  beneath  the  more  obvious  motives  for  the  deeper-seated  causes  of  any  occur- 
rence is  given  expression  in  Book  III.  The  "Other  Half-Rome,"  therefore,  be- 
friends the  suffering  wife  and  her  untitled  foster-parents,  detects  the  inconsistencies 
of  Guido's  defence,  and,  in  the  interest  of  society  at  large,  refuses  to  permit  a  hus- 
band to  constitute  himself  judge  and  executioner  in  his  own  case.] 

Another  day  that  finds  her  living  yet, 
Little  Pompilia,  with  the  patient  brow 
And  lamentable  smile  on  those  poor  lips, 
And,  under  the  white  hospital-array, 

A  fiower-like  body,  to  frighten  at  a  bruise  5 

You  'd  think,  yet  now,  stabbed  through  and  through  again, 
Alive  i'  the  ruins.     'T  is  a  miracle. 
.    It  seems  that,  when  her  husband  struck  her  first,    . 
She  prayed  Madonna  just  that  she  might  live 
So  Ions;  as  to  confess  and  be  absolved ;  10 

And  whether  it  was  that,  all  her  sad  life  long 
Never  before  successful  in  a  prayer, 
This  prayer  rose  with  authority  too  dread,  — 
Or  whether,  because  earth  was  hell  to  her, 
By  compensation,  when  the  blackness  broke  15 

She  got  one  glimpse  of  quiet  and  the  cool  blue. 
To  snow  her  for  a  moment  such  things  were, — 
Or  else,  —  as  the  Augustinian  Brother  thinks. 
The  friar  who  took  confession  from  her  lip,  — 
When  a  probationary  soul  that  moved  20 

From  nobleness  to  nobleness,  as  she, 
Over  the  rough  way  of  the  world,  succumbs. 
Bloodies  its  last  thorn  with  unflinching  foot, 
The  angels  love  to  do  their  work  betimes. 
Staunch  some  wounds  here  nor  leave  so  much  for  God.         25 
Who  knows?    However  it  be,  confessed,  absolved, 
She  lies,  with  overplus  of  life  beside 
To  speak  and  right  herself  from  first  to  last, 
Right  the  friend  also,  lamb-pure,  lion-brave, 
Care  for  the  boy's  concerns,  to  save  the  son  30 

From  the^  sire,  her  two-weeks'  infant  orphaned  thus, 
And  —  with  best  smile  of  all  reserved  for  him  — 


Pardon  that  sire  and  husband  from  the  heart. 
A  miracle,  so  tell  your  Molinists! 

There  she  lies  in  the  long  white  lazar-house.  35 

Rome  has  besieged,  these  two  days,  never  doubt, 
Saint  Annans  ^  where  she  waits  her  death,  to  hear 
Though  but  the  chink  o^  the  bell,  turn  o^  the  hinge 
When  the  reluctant  wicket  opes  at  last. 
Lets  in,  on  now  this  and  now  that  pretence,  40 

Too  many  by  half,  —  complain  the  men  of  art,  — 
For  a  patient  in  such  plight.    The  lawyers  first 
Paid  the  due  visit — justice  must  be  done ; 
.  They  took  her  witness,  why  the  murder  was. 
Then  the  priests  followed  properly,  —  a  soul  45 

To  shrive ;  't  was  Brother  Celestine^s  own  right, 
The  same  who  noises  thus  her  gifts  abroad. 
But  many  more,  who  found  they  were  old  friends, 
Pushed  in  to  have  their  stare  and  take  their  talk 
And  go  forth  boasting  of  it  and  to  boast.  50 

Old  Monna  Baldi  chatters  like  a  jay. 
Swears — but  that,  prematurely  trundled  out 
Just  as  she  felt  the  benefit  beein. 
The  miracle  was  snapped  up  by  somebody,  — 
Her  palsied  limb  ^gan  prick  and  promise  life  55 

At  touch  o^  the  bedclothes  merely,  —  how  much  more 
Had  she  but  brushed  the  body  as  she  tried ! 
Cavalier  Carlo* — well,  there's  some  excuse 
For  him  —  Maratta  who  paints  Virgins  so  — 
He  too  must  fee  the  porter  and  slip  by  60 

With  pencil  cut  and  paper  squared,  and  straight 
There  was  he  figuring  away  at  face : 
"  A  lovelier  face  is  not  in  Rome,"  cried  he, 
<<  Shaped  like  a  peacock's  ^^^  the  pure  as  pearl, 
That  hatches  you  anon  a  snow-white  chick.''  65 

Then,  oh  that  pair  of  eyes,  that  pendent  hair, 
Black  this  and  black  the  other!    Mighty  fine — 
But  nobody  cared  ask  to  paint  the  same, 
Nor  grew  a  poet  over  hair  and  eyes 

Four  little  years  ago  when,  ask  and  have,  70 

The  woman  who  wakes  all  this  rapture  leaned 
Flower-like  from  out  her  window  long  enough. 
As  much  uncomplimented  as  uncropped 
By  comers  and  goers  in  Via  Vittoria :  eh  ? 
'T  is  just  a  flower's  fate :  past  parterre  we  trip,  75 

^  5am/ ^nna'x.*  the  monastery  in  Rome    painter    (1635-1713)     called    "Carlo    delle 
where  Vittoria  Colonna  also  awaited  death.        Madonne,**  on  account  of  the  great  number 
*  Carh    Maratta  :     celebrated     Roman    of  pictures  of  the  Virgin  he  painted. 


Till  peradventure  someone  plucks  our  sleeve  — 

"  Yon  blossom  at  the  briar's  end,  that 's  the  rose 

Two  jealous  people  fought  for  yesterday 

And  killed  each  other :  see,  there 's  undisturbed 

A  pretty  pool  at  the  root,  of  rival  red!  "•  80 

Then  cry  we  "  Ah,  the  perfect  paragon ! " 

Then  crave  we  "Just  one  keepsake-leaf  for  us!" 

Truth  lies  between :  there 's  anyhow  a  child 

Of  seventeen  years,  whether  a  flower  or  weed, 

Ruined :  who  did  it  shall  account  to  Christ  —  85 

Having  no  pity  on  the  harmless  life 

And  gentle  face  and  girlish  form  he  found. 

And  thus  flings  back.     Go  practise  if  you  please 

With  men  and  women :  leave  a  child  alone 

For  Christ's  particular  love's  sake!  —  so  I  say.  90 

Somebody,  at  the  bedside,  said  much  more, 

Took  on  him  to  explain  the  secret  cause 

O'  the  crime :  quoth  he,  "  Such  crimes  are  very  rife, 

Explode  nor  make  us  wonder  now-a-days. 

Seeing  that  Antichrist  disseminates  95 

That  doctrine  of  the  Philosophic  Sin :  * 

Molinos'  sect  will  soon  make  earth  too  hot!'^ 

"Nay,"  iproaned  the  Augustinian,  "what's  there  new? 

Crime  will  not  fail  to  flare  up  from  men's  hearts 

While  hearts  are  men's  and  so  born  criminal ;  100 

Which  one  fact,  always  old  yet  ever  new. 

Accounts  for  so  much  crime  that,  for  my  part, 

Molinos  may  go  whistle  to  the  wind 

That  waits  outside  a  certain  church,  you  know!" 

Though  really  it  does  seem  as  if  she  here,  105 

Pompilia,  living  so  and  dying  thus. 

Has  had  undue  experience  how  much  crime 

A  heart  can  hatch.    Why  was  she  made  to  learn 

—  Not  you,  not  I,  not  even  Molinos'  self — 

What  Guido  Franceschini's  heart  could  hold?  no 

Thus  saintship  is  effected  probably ; 

No  sparing  saints  the  process !  —  which  the  more 

Tends  to  the  reconciling  us,  no  saints, 

To  sinnership,  immunity  and  all. 

For  see  now :  Pietro  and  Violante's  life  115 

Till  seventeen  years  ago,  all  Rome  might  note 

*  Philosophic  Sin  :   Molinos  Uught  that    "  desires  nothing,  not  even  his  own  salTation; 
soul  in  a  state  of  perfect  contemplation    and  fears  nothing,  not  eren  hell  itself." 


And  quote  for  happy  —  see  the  signs  distinct 

Of  happiness  as  we  yon  Triton's  ^  trump. 

What  could  they  be  but  happy?  —  balanced  so, 

Nor  low  i^  the  social  scale  nor  yet  too  high,  120 

Nor  poor  nor  richer  than  comports  with  ease, 

Nor  bright  and  envied,  nor  obscure  and  scorned. 

Nor  so  young  that  their  pleasures  fell  too  thick, 

Nor  old  past  catching  pleasure  when  it  fell, 

Nothine  above,  below  the  just  degree,  125 

All  at  the  mean  where  joy's  compotients  mix. 

So  again,  in  the  couple  s  very  souls 

You  saw  the  adequate  half  with  half  to  match. 

Each  havine  and  each  lacking  somewhat,  both 

MsJcing  a  whole  that  had  all  and  lacked  nought.  130 

The  round  and  sound,  in  whose  composure  just 

The  acquiescent  and  recipient  side 

Was  Pietro's,  and  the  stirring  striving  one 

Violante's :  both  in  union  gave  the  due 

Quietude,  enterprise,  craving  and  content,  135 

Which  go  to  bodily  health  and  peace  of  mind. 

But,  as  't  is  said  a  body,  rightly  mixed, 

Each  element  in  equipoise,  would  last 

Too  long  and  live  for  ever,  —  accordingly 

Holds  a  germ  —  sand-grain  weight  too  much  i'  the  scale —  140 

Ordained  to  get  predominance  one  day 

And  so  bring  all  to  ruin  and  release,  — 

Not  otherwise  a  fetal  germ  lurked  here : 

"  With  mortals  much  must  go,  but  something  stays ; 

Nothing  will  stay  of  our  so  happy  selves."  145 

Out  of  the  very  ripeness  of  life's  core 

A  worm  was  bred  —  "  Our  life  shall  leave  no  fruit." 

Enougfh  of  bliss,  they  thought,  could  bliss  bear  seed, 

Yield  its  like,  propagate  a  bliss  in  turn 

And  keep  the  kind  up ;  not  supplant  themselves  150 

But  put  m  evidence,  record  they  were. 

Show  them,  when  done  with,  i'  the  shape  of  a  child. 

"  'T  is  in  a  child,  man  and  wife  grow  complete. 

One  flesh :  God  says  so :  let  him  do  his  work ! " 

Now,  one  reminder  of  this  gnawing  want,  155 

One  special  prick  o'  the  maggot  at  the  core. 
Always  befell  when,  as  the  day  came  round, 
A  certain  yearly  sum,  —  our  Pietro  being. 
As  the  long  name  runs,  an  usufructuary,^ — 

>  Ftfif  7'riV0if.*seenote,I.89o.  The  speaker        *  Usufructuary:    a  person  who  has  the 
is  represented  as  being  in  the  Piazza  Barberini,    use  of  the  profits  of  a  property. 
near  Bernini's  fountain,  composed  of  a  Triton 
supported  by  dolphins. 


Dropped  in  the  common  bag  as  interest  l6o 

Of  money,  his  till  death,  not  afterward, 

Failing  an  heir :  an  heir  would  take  and  take^ 

A  child  of  theirs  be  wealthy  in  their  place 

To  nobody's  hurt  —  the  stranger  else  seized  all. 

Prosperity  rolled  river-like  and  stopped,  165 

Making  their  mill  go ;  but  when  wheel  wore  ooty 

The  wave  would  find  a  space  and  sweep  on  free 

And,  half-a-mile  off,  grind  some  neighbor's  corn. 

Adam-like,  Pietro  sighed  and  said  no  more : 

Eve  saw  the  apple  was  fair  and  good  to  taste,  1 70 

So,  plucked  it,  having  asked  the  snake  advice. 

She  told  her  husband  God  was  merciftil. 

And  his  and  her  prayer  granted  at  the  last : 

Let  the  old  mill-stone  moulder,  —  wheel  unworn, 

Quartz  from  the  quarry,  shot  into  the  stream  1 75 

Adroitly,  as  before  should  go  bring  grist  — 

Their  house  continued  to  them  by  an  heir. 

Their  vacant  heart  replenished  with  a  child. 

We  have  her  own  confession  at  full  length 

Made  in  the  first  remorse :  't  was  Jubilee  180 

Pealed  in  the  ear  o'  the  conscience  and  it  woke. 

She  found  she  had  offended  God  no  doubt. 

So  much  was  plain  from  what  had  happened  since, 

Misfortune  on  misfortune ;  but  she  harmed 

No  one  i'  the  world,  so  far  as  she  could  see.  185 

The  act  had  gladdened  Pietro  to  the  height, 

Her  spouse  whom  God  himself  must  gladden  so 

Or  not  at  all :  thus  much  seems  probable 

From  the  implicit  faith,  or  rather  say 

Stupid  credulity  of  the  foolish  man  190 

Who  swallowed  such  a  tale  nor  strained  a  whit 

Even  at  his  wife's  far-over-fifty  years 

Matching  his  sixty-and-under.    Him  she  blessed ; 

And  as  for  doing  any  detriment 

To  the  veritable  heir,  —  whv,  tell  her  first  195 

Who  was  he?    Which  of  all  the  hands  held  up 

r  the  crowd,  one  day  would  gather  round  their  gate, 

Did  she  so  wrong  by  intercepting  thus 

The  ducat,  spendthrift  fortune  thought  to  fling 

For  a  scramble  just  to  make  the  mob  break  shins  ?  200 

She  kept  it,  saved  them  kicks  and  cuffs  thereby. 

While  at  the  least  one  good  work  had  she  wrought, 

Good,  clearly  and  incontestably!    Her  cheat — 

What  was  it  to  its  subject,  the  child's  self. 

But  charity  and  religion  ?    Seethegu-l!  905 

A  body  most  like  —  a  soul  too  probably  — 


Doomed  to  death,  such  a  double  death  as  waits 

The  illicit  offspring  of  a  common  trull, 

Sure  to  resent  and  forthwith  rid  herself 

Of  a  mere  interruption  to  sin^s  trade,  210 

In  the  efficacious  way  old  Tiber  knows. 

Was  not  so  much  proved  by  the  ready  sale 

O^  the  child,  glad  transfer  of  this  irksome  chance? 

Well  then,  she  had  caught  up  this  castaway : 

This  fragile  ege,  some  careless  wild  bird  dropped,  215 

She  had  picked  from  where  it  waited  the  foot-fall. 

And  put  m  her  own  breast  till  forth  broke  finch 

Able  to  sing  God  praise  on  mornings  now. 

What  so  excessive  harm  was  done  ? — she  asked. 

To  which  demand  the  dreadful  answer  comes  —  220 

For  that  same  deed,  now  at  Lorenzo^s  church, 

Both  agents,  conscious  and  inconscious,  lie ; 

While  she,  the  deed  was  done  to  benefit. 

Lies  also,  the  most  lamentable  of  things, 

Yonder  where  curious  people  count  her  breaths,  225 

Calculate  how  long  yet  the  little  life 

Unspilt  may  serve  their  turn  nor  spoil  the  show, 

Give  them  their  story,  then  the  church  its  group. 

Well,  having  gained  Pompilia,  the  girl  grew 

V  the  midst  of  Pietro  here,  Violante  there,  230 

Each,  like  a  semicircle  with  outstretched  arms. 

Joining  the  other  round  her  preciousness — 

Two  walls  that  go  about  a  garden-plot 

Where  a  chance  sliver,  branchlet  slipt  from  bole 

Of  some  tongue-leaved  eye-figured  Eden  tree,*  235 

Filqhed  by  two  exiles  and  borne  far  away. 

Patiently  glorifies  their  solitude,  — 

Year  \y^  year  mounting,  grade  by  grade  surmount 

The  builded  brick-wonc,  yet  is  compassed  still. 

Still  hidden  happily  and  shielded  safe,  —  240 

Else  why  should  miracle  have  graced  the  ground? 

But  on  the  twelfth  sun  that  brought  April  there 

What  meant  that  laugh?    The  coping-stone  was  reached ; 

Nay,  above  towered  a  light  tuft  of  bloom 

To  be  toyed  with  by  butterfly  or  bee,  245 

Done  good  to  or  else  harm  to  from  outside : 

Pompuia^s  root,  stalk  and  a  branch  or  two 

Home  enclosed  still,  the  rest  would  be  the  world's. 

All  which  was  taught  our  couple  though  obtuse, 

^  Tongue-Uaved  eye-figured  Eden  tree  :  possibly  a  reference  to  some  symbolic  repre- 
sentadcm  of  the  tree  of  Eden. 


Since  walls  have  ears*  when  one  day  brought  a  priest,         250 

Smooth-mannered  soft-speeched  sleek-cheeked  visitor. 

The  notable  Abate  Paolo  —  known 

As  younger  brother  of  a  Tuscan  house 

Whereof  the  actual  representative, 

Count  Guido,  had  employed  his  youth  and  age  255 

In  culture  of  Rome's  most  productive  plant  — 

A  cardinal :  but  years  pass  and  change  comes. 

In  token  of  which,  here  was  our  Paolo  brought 

To  broach  a  weighty  business.    Might  he  3peak? 

Yes — to  Violante  somehow  caught  alone  260 

While  Pietro  took  his  after-dinner  doze, 

And  the  young  maiden,  busily  as  befits. 

Minded  her  broider-frame  three  chambers  off. 

So  —  giving  now  his  great  flap-hat  a  gloss 

With  flat  o'  the  hand  between-whiles,  soothing  now  265 

The  silk  from  out  its  creases  o'er  the  calf. 

Setting  the  stocking  clerical  again, 

But  never  disengaging,  once  engaged, 

The  thin  clear  grey  hold  of  his  eyes  on  her — 

He  dissertated  on  that  Tuscan  house,  270 

Those  Franceschini,  —  very  old  they  were  — 

Not  rich  however —  oh,  not  rich,  at  least. 

As  people  look  to  be  who,  low  i'  the  scale 

One  way,  have  reason,  rising  all  they  can 

By  favor  of  the  money-bag!  't  is  fair —  275 

Do  all  gifts  go  together?    But  don't  suppose 

That  being  not  so  rich  means  all  so  poor! 

Say  rather,  well  enough — i'  the  way,  indeed, 

Ha,  ha,  to  fortune  better  than  the  best : 

Since  if  his  brother's  patron-friend  kept  faith,  280 

Put  into  promised  play  the  Cardinalate, 

Their  house  might  wear  the  red  cloth  that  keeps  warm. 

Would  but  the  Count  have  patience  —  there  's  the  point ! 

For  he  was  slipping  into  years  apace. 

And  years  make  men  restless  —  they  needs  must  spy  285 

Some  certainty,  some  sort  of  end  assured. 

Some  sparkle,  tho'  from  topmost  beacon-tip. 

That  warrants  life  a  harbor  through  the  haze. 

In  short,  call  him  fantastic  as  you  choose, 

Guido  was  home-sick,  yearned  for  the  old  sights  290 

And  usual  faces,  —  fain  would  settle  himself 

And  have  the  patron's  bounty  when  it  fell 

Irrigate  far  rather  than  deluge  near. 

Go  fertilize  Arezzo,  not  flood  Rome. 

Sooth  to  say,  't  was  the  wiser  wish :  the  Count  295 

Proved  wanting  in  ambition,  —  let  us  avouch. 


Since  truth  is  best, — in  callousness  of  heart, 

And  winced  at  pin-pricks  whereby  honors  hang 

A  ribbon  o^er  each  puncture :  his  —  no  soul 

Ecclesiastic  (here  the  hat  was  brushed)  300 

Humble  but  self-sustaining,  calm  and  cold, 

Having,  as  one  who  puts  his  hand  to  the  plough, 

Renounced  the  over-vivid  £unily-feel  — 

Poor  brother  Guido  !    All  too  plain,  he  pined 

Amid  Rome^s  pomp  and  glare  for  dinginess  305 

And  that  dilapidated  palace-shell 

Vast  as  a  quarry  and,  very  like,  as  bare — 

Since  to  this  comes  old  grandeur  now-a-days  — 

Or  that  absurd  wild  villa  in  the  waste 

O^  the  hill  side,  breezy  though,  for  who  likes  air,  310 

Vittiano,  nor  unpleasant  witn  its  vines. 

Outside  the  city  and  the  summer  heats. 

And  now  his  harping  on  this  one  tense  chord 

The  villa  and  the  psuace,  palace  this 

And  villa  the  other,  all  day  and  all  night  315 

Creaked  like  the  implacable  cicala^s  cry 

And  made  one^s  ear  drum  ache :  nougnt  else  would  serve 

But  that,  to  light  his  mother^s  visage  up 

With  second  youth,  hope,  gaiety  a£;ain. 

He  must  find  straightway,  woo  and  haply  win  320 

And  bear  away  triumphant  back,  some  wife. 

Well  now,  the  man  was  rational  in  his  way : 

He,  the  Abate,  —  ought  he  to  interpose  ? 

Unless  by  straining  still  his  tutelage 

(Priesthood  leaps  over  elder-brothership)  325 

Across  thb  difficulty :  then  let  go. 

Leave  the  poor  fellow  in  peace!    Would  that  be  wrong? 

There  was  no  making  Guido  great,  it  seems. 

Spite  of  himself:  then  happy  oe  his  dole! 

Indeed,  the  Abaters  little  interest  330 

Was  somewhat  nearly  touched  i^  the  case,  they  saw : 

Since  if  his  simple  kinsman  so  were  bent, 

Began  his  rounds  in  Rome  to  catch  a  wife, 

FuU  soon  would  such  unworldliness  surprise 

The  rare  bird,  sprinkle  salt  on  phoenix^  tail,  335 

And  so  secure  the  nest  a  sparrow-hawk. 

No  lack  of  mothers  here  in  Rome,  —  no  dread 

Of  daughters  lured  as  larks  by  looking-glass!  ^ 

The  first  name-peckine;  credit-scratching  fowl 

Would  drop  her  unfledged  cuckoo  in  our  nest  340 

^  Lured  as  larks  by  lookiug-gltiss  :  refers    posed  to  the  sun,  by  their  brightness  attract 
to  a  kind  of  trap  mounted  on  a  pivot  and  set    larks  and  other  birds, 
with  little  pieces  of  looking-glass  which,  ex- 


To  gather  gre)mess  there,  give  voice  at  length 

And  shame  the  brood  .  .  .  but  it  was  long  ago 

When  crusades  were,  and  we  sent  eagles  forth ! 

No,  that  at  least  the  Abate  could  forestall. 

He  read  the  thought  within  his  brother's  word,  345 

Knew  what  he  purposed  better  than  himself. 

We  want  no  name  and  fame  —  having  our  own : 

No  worldly  aggrandizement  —  such  we  fly : 

But  if  some  wonder  of  a  woman's-heart 

Were  yet  untainted  on  this  grimy  earth,  350 

Tender  and  true  —  tradition  tells  of  such  — 

Prepared  to  pant  in  time  and  tune  with  ours  — 

If  some  good  girl  (a  girl  since  she  must  take 

The  new  bent,  live  new  life,  adopt  new  modes) 

Not  wealthy  (Guido  for  his  rank  was  poor)  355 

But  with  whatever  dowry  came  to  hand,  — 

There  were  the  lady-love  predestinate! 

And  somehow  the  Abate's  guardian  eye  — 

Scintillant,  rutilant,i  fraternal  fire,  — 

Roving  round  every  way  had  seized  the  prize  360 

—  The  instinct  of  us,  we,  the  spiritualty ! 

Come,  cards  on  table ;  was  it  true  or  false 

That  here  —  here  in  this  very  tenement  — 

Yea,  Via  Vittoria  did  a  marvel  hide, 

Lily  of  a  maiden,  white  with  intact  leaf  365 

Guessed  thro'  the  sheath  that  saved  it  from  the  sun? 

A  daughter  with  the  mother's  hands  still  clasped 

Over  her  head  for  fillet  virginal, 

A  wife  worth  Guido's  house  and  hand  and  heart? 

He  came  to  see ;  had  spoken,  he  could  no  less —  370 

(A  final  cherish  of  the  stockinged  calf) 

If  harm  were, —  well,  the  matter  was  off  his  mind. 

Then  with  the  great  air  did  he  kiss,  devout, 

Violante's  hand,  and  rise  up  his  whole  height 

(A  certain  purple  gleam  about  the  black)  375 

And  go  forth  grandly,  —  as  if  the  Pope  came  next. 

And  so  Violante  rubbed  her  eyes  awhile. 

Got  up  too,  walked  to  wake  her  Pietro  soon 

And  pour  into  his  ear  the  mighty  news 

How  somebody  had  somehow  somewhere  seen  380 

Their  tree-top-tuft  of  bloom  upon  the  wall. 

And  came  now  to  apprize  them  the  tree's  self 

Was  no  such  crab-sort  as  should  go  feed  swine, 

But  veritable  gold,  the  Hesperian  ball  ^ 

^  Rutilant :  shining.  which  Hercules  was  required  to  fetch  firom 

*  The  Hesperian  ball :  the  golden  apple    the  garden  of  the  Hesperides. 


Ordained  for  Hercules  to  haste  and  pluck,  385 

And  bear  and  give  the  Gods  to  banquet  with  — 

Hercules  stancung  ready  at  the  door. 

Whereon  did  Pietro  rub  his  eves  in  turn, 

Look  very  wise,  a  little  woeful  too, 

Then,  periwig;  on  head,  and  cane  in  hand,  390 

Sally  forth  dignifiedly  into  the  Square 

Of  Spain  ^  across  Babbuino  the  six  steps, 

Toward  the  Boat-fountain  where  our  idlers  lounge,  — 

Ask,  for  formes  sake,  who  Hercules  mieht  be. 

And  have  congratulation  from  the  world.  395 

Heartily  laughed  the  world  in  his  foors-£u:e 

And  told  him  Hercules  was  just  the  heir 

To  the  stubble  once  a  corn-neld,  and  brick-heap 

Where  used  to  be  a  dwelling-place  now  burned. 

Guido  and  Franceschini ;  a  Count, — ay :  400 

But  a  cross ^  i^  the  poke'  to  bless  the  Countship?    No! 

All  gone  except  sloth,  pride,  rapacity. 

Humors  of  the  imposthume  ^  incident 

To  rich  blood  that  runs  thin,  —  nursed  to  a  head 

By  the  rankly-salted  soil  —  a  cardinal^s  court  405 

Where,  parasite  and  picker-up  of  crumbs, 

He  had  hung  on  long,  and  now,  let  go,  said  some. 

Shaken  off,  said  others,  —  but  in  any  case 

Tired  of  the  trade  and  something  worse  for  wear, 

Was  wanting  to  change  town  for  country  quick,  410 

Go  home  again :  let  Pietro  help  him  home ! 

The  brother.  Abate  Paolo,  shrewder  mouse. 

Had  pricked  for  comfortable  quarters,  inched 

Into  the  core  of  Rome,  and  fiaittened  so ; 

But  Guido,  over-burly  for  rat's  hole  415 

Suited  to  clerical  slimness,  starved  outside. 

Must  shift  for  himself:  and  so  the  shift  was  this! 

What,  was  the  snug  retreat  of  Pietro  tracked. 

The  little  provision  for  his  old  age  snuffed  ? 

'*  Oh,  make  your  girl  a  lady,  an  you  list,  420 

But  have  more  mercy  on  our  wit  than  vaunt 

Your  bargain  as  we  ourgesses  who  brag! 

Why,  Goodman  Dullard,  if  a  friend  must  speak, 

Would  the  Count,  think  you,  stoop  to  you  and  yours 

Were  there  the  value  of  one  penny-piece  425 

1  The  Square  of  Spain :   the  Piazza  di  found  in  Goldsmith,  Dryden,  Shakespeare, 

Spagna,  in  the  present  "  EngUsh  quarter  "  of  and  others.    It  originated  from  money  with  a 

Rome.    The  Via  del  Babbuino  runs  into  it,  cross  stamped  on  it. 
and  the  "  Boat-fountain"  (Fontana  della  Bar-         ^  Poke  :  a  pocket, 
caccia)  stands  in  it  ^  Imposthume  :  abscess. 

*  Cross  :   ue.  a  coin;  an  old  expression, 


To  rattle  'twixt  his  palms  —  or  likelier  laugh, 
Bid  your  Pompilia  nelp  you  black  his  shoe  ?  ^* 

Home  again,  shaking  oft  the  puzzled  pate, 

Went  Pietro  to  announce  a  change  indeed, 

Yet  point  Violante  where  some  solace  lay  430 

Of  a  rueful  sort,  —  the  taper,  quenched  so  soon, 

Had  ended  merely  in  a  snuff,  not  stink  — 

Congratulate  there  was  one  hope  the  less 

Not  misery  the  more :  and  so  an  end. 

The  marriage  thus  impossible,  the  rest  •       435 

Followed :  our  spokesman,  Paolo,  heard  his  £cite, 

Resignedly  Count  Guido  bore  the  blow : 

Violante  wiped  away  the  transient  tear. 

Renounced  the  playing  Danae  ^  to  gold  dreams. 

Praised  much  her  Pietro^s  prompt  sa^ciousness,  440 

Found  neighbors^  envy  natuial,  lightly  laughed 

At  gossips'  malice,  fairly  wrapped  herself 

In  her  integrity  three  folds  about. 

And,  letting  pass  a  little  day  or  two, 

Threw,  even  over  that  integrity,  445 

Another  wrappage,  namely  one  thick  veil 

That  hid  her,  matron-wise,  from  head  to  foot, 

And,  by  the  hand  holding  a  girl  veiled  too, 

Stood,  one  dim  end  of  a  December  day. 

In  Saint  Lorenzo  on  the  altar-step —  450 

Just  where  she  lies  now  and  that  girl  will  lie  — 

Only  with  fifty  candles'  company 

Now,  in  the  place  of  the  poor  wmking  one 

Which  saw, — doors  shut  and  sacristan  made  sure, — 

A  priest — perhaps  Abate  Paolo — wed  455 

Guido  clandestinely,  irrevocably 

To  his  Pompilia  aged  thirteen  years 

And  five  months,  —  witness  the  church  register, — 

Pompilia,  (thus  become  Count  Guido's  wife 

Clandestinely,  irrevocably  his,)  460 

Who  all  the  while  had  borne,  from  first  to  last. 

As  brisk  a  part  i'  the  bargain,  as  yon  lamb. 

Brought  forth  from  basket  and  set  out  for  sale, 

Bears  while  they  chaffer,  wary  market-man 

And  voluble  housewife,  o'er  it,  —  each  in  turn  465 

Patting^  the  curly  calm  inconscious  head. 

With  the  shambles  ready  round  the  corner  there. 

When  the  talk 's  talked  out  and  a  bargain  struck. 

>  Danae :  shut  up  in  an  underground  chamber,  she  was  visited  by  Jupiter  disguised 
a  shower  of  gold. 


Transfer  complete,  why,  Pietro  was  apprised. 

Violante  sobbed  the  sobs  and  prayed  tne  prayers  470 

And  said  the  serpent  tempted  so  she  fell, 

Till  Pietro  had  to  clear  his  brow  apace 

And  make  the  best  of  matters :  wrath  at  first,  -^ 

How  else  ?  pacification  presently, 

Why  not  ?  —  could  flesh  withstand  the  impurpled  one,  475 

The  very  Cardinal,  Paolo's  patron-friend  ? 

Who,  justifiably  surnamed  "a  hinge,"  ^ 

Knew  where  the  mollifying  oil  should  drop 

To  cure  the  break  o'  the  valve,  —  considerate 

For  frailty,  patient  in  a  naughty  world.  480 

He  even  volunteered  to  supervise 

The  rough  draught  of  those  marriage-articles 

Signed  in  a  hurry  by  Pietro,  since  revoked : 

Trust 's  politic,  suspicion  does  the  harm. 

There  is  but  one  way  to  brow-beat  this  world,  485 

Dumb-founder  doubt,  and  repay  scorn  in  kind,  — 

To  go  on  trusting,  namely,  tUl  £aith  move 


And  fEUth  here  made  the  mountains  move. 
Why,  friends  whose  zeal  cried  "Caution  ere  too  late!  "  — 
Bade  "  Pause  ere  jump,  with  both  feet  joined,  on  slough! "  —     490 
Counselled  "  If  rashness  then,  now  temperance! " — 
Heard  for  their  pains  that  Pietro  had  closed  eyes, 
jumped  and  was  in  the  middle  of  the  mire. 
Money  and  all,  just  what  should  sink  a  man. 
By  the  mere  marriage,  Guido  gained  forthwith  495 

Dowry,  his  wife's  right ;  no  rescinding  there : 
But  Pietro,  why  must  he  needs  ratify 
One  gift  Violante  gave,  pay  down  one  doit  ^ 
Promised  in  first  roors-flurry?    Grasp  the  bag 
Lest  the  son's  service  flag,  —  is  reason  and  rhyme,  500 

Above  all  when  the  son  's  a  son-in-law. 
Words  to  the  wind  !    The  parents  cast  their  lot 
Into  the  lap  o'  the  daughter :  and  the  son 
Now  with  a  right  to  lie  there,  took  what  fell, 
Pietro's  whole  having  and  holding,  house  and  field,  505 

Goods,  chattels  and  effects,  his  worldly  worth 
Present  and  in  perspective,  all  renounced 
In  favor  of  Guido.     As  for  the  usufruct  — 
The  interest  now,  the  principal  anon, 

Would  Guido  please  to  wait,  at  Pietro's  death :  510 

Till  when,  he  must  support  the  couple's  charge, 

^  A  hinf^ :  the  title  Cardinal  is  derived        '  Doit:  see  note,  II.  484. 
from  cardo,  **  a  hbge."  , 



Bear  with  them,  housemates,  pensionaries,  pawned 

To  an  alien  for  fulfilment  of  tneir  pact. 

Guido  should  at  discretion  deal  them  orts,^ 

Bread-bounty  in  Arezzo  the  strange  place, —  515 

They  who  had  lived  deliciously  and  rolled 

Rome^s  choicest  comfit  'neath  the  tongue  before. 

Into  this  quag,^  "jump"  bade  the  Cardinal! 

And  neckndeep  in  a  minute  there  flounced  they. 

But  they  touched  bottom  at  Arezzo :  there  —  520 

Four  months^  experience  of  how  craft  and  greed 

Quickened  by  penury  and  pretentious  hate 

Of  plain  truth,  brutify  and  bestialize,  — 

Four  months'  taste  of  apportioned  insolence, 

Cruelty  graduated,  dose  by  dose  525 

Of  rumanism  dealt  out  at  bed  and  board. 

And  lo,  the  work  was  done,  success  clapped  hands. 

The  starved,  stripped,  beaten  brace  of  stupid  dupes 

Broke  at  last  in  their  desperation  loose. 

Fled  away  for  their  lives,  and  lucky  so ;  53O 

Found  their  account  in  casting  coat  afar 

And  bearine  off  a  shred  of  skin  at  least : 

Left  Guido  lord  o'  the  prey,  as  the  lion  is. 

And,  careless  what  came  ^er,  carried  their  wrongs 

To  Rome,  —  I  nothing  doubt,  with  such  remorse  535 

As  folly  feels,  since  pain  can  make  it  wise, 

But  crime,  past  wisdom,  which  is  innocence, 

Needs  not  be  plagued  with  till  a  later  day. 

Pietro  went  back  to  beg  from  door  to  door, 

In  hope  that  memory  not  quite  extinct  540 

Of  cheery  days  and  festive  nights  would  move 

Friends  and  acquaintance — after  the  natural  laugh. 

And  tributary  "  Just  as  we  foretold  —  " 

To  show  some  bowels,  give  the  dregs  o'  the  cup, 

Scraps  of  the  trencher,  to  their  host  that  was,  545 

Or  let  him  share  the  mat  with  the  mastiflf,  he 

Who  lived  large  and  kept  open  house  so  long. 

Not  so  Violante :  ever  a-head  i'  the  march. 

Quick  at  the  bye-road  and  the  cut-across. 

She  went  first  to  the  best  adviser,  God  —  550 

Whose  fin^ger  unmistakably  was  felt 

In  all  this  retribution  of  the  past. 

Here  was  the  prize  of  sin,  luck  of  a  lie  f 

But  here  too  was  what  Holy  Year  would  help, 

Bound  to  rid  sinners  of  sin  vulgar,  sin  555 

*  d^Wf  .•  scrap$.  *  ^a^=  quagmire. 


Abnormal,  sin  prodigious,  up  to  sin 

Impossible  and  supposed  for  Jubilee^  sake : 

T.O  lift  the  leadenest  of  lies,  let  soar 

The  soul  unhampered  by  a  feather-weight. 

''  I  will  ^  said  she  ^'  go  bum  out  this  bad  hole  560 

That  breeds  the  scorpion,  baulk  the  plague  at  least 

Of  hope  to  further  plague  by  progeny : 

I  will  confess  my  fault,  be  punished,  yes, 

But  pardoned  too :  Saint  Peter  pays  for  all.^ 

So,  with  the  crowd  she  mixed,  made  for  the  dome,  565 

Through  the  great  door  *  new-broken  for  the  nonce 

Marched,  muffled  more  than  ever  matron-wise. 

Up  the  left  nave  to  the  formidable  throne. 

Fell  into  file  with  this  the  poboner 

And  that  the  parricide,  and  reached  in  turn  570 

The  poor  repugnant  Penitentiary  * 

Set  at  this  gully-hole  o^  the  world^s  discharge 

To  help  the  frightfiillest  of  filth  have  vent. 

And  then  knelt  down  and  whispered  in  his  ear 

How  she  had  bought  Pompilia,  palmed  the  babe  575 

On  Pietro,  passed  the  girl  off  as  their  child 

To  Guido,  and  defrauded  of  his  due 

This  one  and  that  one,  —  more  than  she  could  name, 

Until  her  solid  piece  of  wickedness 

Happened  to  split  and  spread  woe  far  and  wide :  580 

Contritely  now  she  brought  the  case  for  cure. 

Replied  the  throne  —  "  Ere  God  forgive  the  guilt. 

Make  man  some  restitution!    Do  your  part! 

The  owners  of  your  husband's  heritage. 

Barred  thence  by  this  pretended  birth  and  heir,  —  585 

Tell  them,  the  bar  came  so,  is  broken  so. 

Theirs  be  the  due  reversion  as  before! 

Your  husband  who,  no  partner  in  the  guilt. 

Suffers  the  penalty,  led  blindfold  thus 

By  love  of  what  he  thought  his  flesh  and  blood  590 

To  ^ienate  his  all  in  her  behalf,  — 

Tell  him  too  such  contract  is  null  and  void! 

Last,  he  who  personates  your  son-in-law, 

Who  with  seaded  eyes  and  stopped  ears,  tame  and  mute, 

"^  Great  door:  according  to  the  special  ness."    The  doors  are  then  opened  and  sprin- 

ntual,  the  Pope,  at   the  commencement  of  kled  with  holy  water,  and  the  Pope  passes 

the  Jubilee  year,  goes  in  solemn  procession  through.    When  the  Jubilee  closes,  the  door- 

to  a  particular  walled-up  door  (the   Porta  way  is  again  built  up. 

Aurea,  or  golden  door  of  St.  Peter's)   and         '  Penitentiary  :  an  officer  in  some  cathc- 

knocks  three  times,  using  the  words  of  Psalm  drals  vested  with  power  to  absolve, 
cxviii.  19.  "  Open  to  me  the  gates  of  righteous* 


Took  at  your  hand  that  bastard  of  a  whore  595 

You  called  your  daue^hter  and  he  calls  his  wife,  — 
Tell  him,  and  bear  the  anger  which  is  just! 
Then,  penance  so  performed,  may  pardon  be!" 

Who  could  e;ainsay  this  just  and  right  award? 

Nobody  in  the  world ;  but,  out  o'  the  world,  600 

Who  knows  ?  —  might  timid  intervention  be 

From  any  makeshift  of  an  angel-guide, 

Substitute  for  celestial  guardianship. 

Pretending  to  take  care  of  the  girl's  self: 

"  Woman,  confessing  crime  is  healthy  work,  605 

And  telling  truth  relieves  a  liar  like  you. 

But  how  of  my  quite  unconsidered  charge  ? 

No  thought  if,  while  this  good  befalls  yourself, 

Aught  in  the  way  of  harm  may  find  out  her?  ^ 

No  least  thought,  I  assure  you :  truth  being  truth,  610 

Tell  it  and  shame  the  devil! 

Said  and  done : 
Home  went  Violante,  disbosomed  all : 
And  Pietro  who,  six  months  before,  had  borne 
Word  after  word  of  such  a  piece  of  news 
Like  so  much  cold  steel  inched  through  his  breast-blade,    615 
Now  at  its  entry  gave  a  leap  for  joy, 
As  who  —  what  did  I  say  of  one  in  a  quag?  — 
Should  catch  a  hand  from  heaven  and  spring  thereby 
Out  of  the  mud,  on  ten  toes  stand  once  more. 
"  What  ?    All  that  used  to  be,  may  be  again  ?  620 

My  money  mine  again,  my  house,  my  land, 
My  chairs  and  tables,  all  mine  evermore  ? 
What,  the  girl's  dowry  never  was  the  girl's, 
And,  unpaid  yet,  is  never  now  to  pay? 

Then  the  girl's  self,  my  pale  Pompilia  child  625 

That  used  to  be  my  own  with  her  great  eyes  — 
He  who  drove  us  forth,  why  should  he  keep  her 
When  proved  as  very  a  pauper  as  himself  ? 
Will  she  come  back,  with  nothing  changed  at  all. 
And  laugh  *  But  how  you  dreamed  uneasily!  630 

I  saw  the  great  drops  stand  here  on  your  brow  — 
Did  I  do  wrong  to  wake  you  with  a  kiss  ? ' 
No,  indeed,  darling!    No,  for  wide  awake 
I  see  another  outburst  of  surprise : 

The  lout-lord,  bully-beggar,  braggart-sneak,  635 

Who  not  content  with  cutting  purse,  crops  ear  — 
Assuredly  it  shall  be  salve  to  mine 
When  this  great  news  red-letters  him,  the  rogue! 
Ay,  let  him  taste  the  teeth  o'  the  trap,  this  fox, 
Give  us  our  lamb  back,  golden  fleece  and  all,  640 


Let  her  creep  in  and  warm  our  breasts  again! 

Why  care  for  the  past  ?    We  three  are  our  old  selves, 

And  know  now  what  the  outside  world  is  worth. ^^ 

And  so,  he  carried  case  before  the  courts ; 

And  there  Violante,  blushing  to  the  bone,  645 

Made  public  declaration  of  her  fault, 

Renounced  her  motherhood,  and  prayed  the  law 

To  interpose,  frustrate  of  its  effect 

Her  folly,  and  redress  the  injury  done. 

Whereof  was  the  disastrous  consequence,  650 

That  though  indisputably  clear  the  case 

TFor  thirteen  years  are  not  so  large  a  lapse. 

And  still  six  witnesses  survived  in  Rome 

To  prove  the  truth  o'  the  tale)  —  yet,  patent  wron^ 

Seemed  Guidons ;  the  first  cheat  had  chanced  on  him :        655 

Here  was  the  pity  that,  deciding  right. 

Those  who  began  the  wrong  wouldgain  the  prize. 

Guido  pronounced  the  story  one  long  lie 

Lied  to  do  robbery  and  take  revenge : 

Or  say  it  were  no  lie  at  all  but  truth,  660 

Then,  it  both  robbed  the  right  heirs  and  shamed  him 

Without  revenge  to  humanize  the  deed : 

What  had  he  done  when  first  they  shamed  him  thus  ? 

But  that  were  too  fantastic :  losels  they, 

And  leasing  this  world^s-wonder  of  a  he,  665 

They  lied  to  blot  him  though  it  brand  themselves. 

So  answered  Guido  through  the  Abaters  mouth. 

Wherefore  the  court,  its  customary  way, 

Inclined  to  the  middle  course  the  sage  affect. 

They  held  the  child  to  be  a  channeling,  —  good :  670 

But,  lest  the  husband  got  no  good  thereby, 

They  willed  the  dowry,  though  not  hers  at  all. 

Should  yet  be  his,  if  not  by  right  then  grace  — 

Part-payment  for  the  plain  injustice  done. 

As  for  that  other  contract,  Pietro's  work,  675 

Renunciation  of  his  own  estate, 

That  must  be  cancelled  —  give  him  back  his  gifts. 

He  was  no  party  to  the  cheat  at  least! 

So  ran  the  judgment :  —  whence  a  prompt  appeal 

On  both  sides,  seeing  right  is  absolute.  680 

Cried  Pietro  "  Is  the  chUd  no  child  of  mine  ? 

Why  give  her  a  child's  dowry? "  —  "  Have  I  right 

To  the  dowry,  why  not  to  the  rest  as  well  ? " 

Cried  Guido,  or  cried  Paolo  in  his  name : 

Till  law  said  ^  Reinvestigate  the  case ! ''  685 

And  so  the  matter  pends,  to  this  same  day. 


Hence  new  disaster — here  no  outlet  seemed; 

Whatever  the  fortune  of  the  battle-field, 

No  path  whereby  the  fatal  man  might  march 

Victorious,  wreath  on  head  and  spoils  in  hand,  690 

And  back  turned  full  upon  the  baffled  foe,  — 

Nor  cranny  whence,  desperate  and  disgraced. 

Stripped  to  the  skin,  he  might  be  fain  to  crawl 

Worm-like,  and  so  away  with  his  defeat 

To  other  fortune  and  a  novel  prey.  695 

No,  he  was  pinned  to  the  place  there,  left  alone 

With  his  immense  hate  and,  the  solitary 

Subject  to  satisfy  that  hate,  his  wife. 

"  Cast  her  off  ?    Turn  her  naked  out  of  doors  ? 

Easily  said!     But  still  the  action  pends,  700 

Still  dowry,  principal  and  interest, 

Pietro's  possessions,  all  i  bargained  for,  — 

Any  good  day,  be  but  my  friends  alert, 

May  give  them  me  if  she  continue  mine. 

Yet,  keep  her?    Keep  the  puppet  of  my  foes —  705 

Her  voice  that  lisps  me  back  their  curse  —  her  eye 

They  lend  their  leer  of  triumph  to  —  her  lip 

I  touch  and  taste  their  very  filth  upon  ?  " 

In  short,  he  also  took  the  middle  course 

Rome  taught  him  —  did  at  Is&t  excogitate  710 

How  he  might  keep  the  good  and  leave  the  bad 

Twined  in  revenge,  yet  extricable,  —  nay 

Make  the  very  hate's  eruption,  very  rush 

Of  the  unpent  sluice  of  cruelty  relieve 

His  heart  first,  then  go  fertilize  his  field.  715 

What  if  the  girl-wife,  tortured  with  due  care. 

Should  take,  as  thoueh  spontaneously,  the  road 

It  were  impolitic  to  thrust  her  on  ? 

If,  loaded,  she  broke  out  in  full  revolt. 

Followed  her  parents  i'  the  fece  o'  the  world,  720 

Branded  as  runaway  not  castaway. 

Self-sentenced  and  self-punished  in  the  act? 

So  should  the  loathed  form  and  detested  &ce 

Launch  themselves  into  hell  and  there  be  lost 

While  he  looked  o'er  the  brink  with  folded  arms ;  725 

So  should  the  heaped-up  shames  go  shuddering  back 

O'  the  head  o'  the  heapers,  Pietro  and  his  wife. 

And  bury  in  the  breakage  three  at  once : 

While  Guido,  left  free,  no  one  right  renounced. 

Gain  present,  gain  prospective,  all  the  gain,  730 

None  of  the  wife  except  her  rights  absorbed. 

Should  ask  law  what  it  was  law  paused  about  — 

If  law  were  dubious  still  whose  word  to  take. 


The  husband^s  —  dignified  and  derelict. 

Or  the  wife's — the  .  .  .  what  I  tell  you.    It  should  be.  735 

Guido's  first  step  was  to  take  pen,  indite 

A  letter  to  the  Abate,  —  not  his  own, 

His  wife's,  —  she  should  re-write,  sign,  seal  and  send. 

She  liberally  told  the  household-news. 

Rejoiced  her  vile  progenitors  were  gone,  740 

Revealed  their  malice  —  how  they  even  laid 

A  last  injunction  on  her,  when  they  fled, 

That  she  should  forthwith  find  a  paramour, 

Complot  with  him  to  gather  spoil  enough. 

Then  bum  the  house  down, — taking  previous  care  745 

To  poison  all  its  inmates  overnight, — 

And  so  companioned,  so  provisioned  too, 

Follow  to  Rome  and  there  join  fortunes  gay. 

This  letter,  traced  in  pencil-characters, 

Guido  as  easily  got  re-traced  in  ink  750 

By  his  wife's  pen,  guided  from  end  to  end. 

As  if  it  had  been  just  so  much  Chinese. 

For  why?    That  wife  could  broider,  sing  perhaps. 

Pray  certainly,  but  no  more  read  than  write 

This  letter  "which  yet  write  she  must,"  he  said,  755 

"  Bein^  half  courtesy  and  compliment, 

Half  sisterliness :  tauce  the  thing  on  trust! " 

She  had  as  readily  re-traced  the  words 

Of  her  own  death-warrant, — in  some  sort  Hwas  so. 

This  letter  the  Abate  in  due  course  760 

Communicated  to  such  curious  souls 

In  Rome  as  needs  must  pry  into  the  cause 

Of  quarrel,  why  the  Comparini  fled 

The  Franceschini,  whence  the  grievance  grew, 

What  the  hubbub  meant :  "  Nay,  —  see  the  wife's  own  word,      765 

Authentic  answer!    Tell  detractors  too 

There 's  a  plan  formed,  a  programme  figured  here 

—  Pray  God  no  after-practice  put  to  proof, 

This  letter  cast  no  light  upon,  one  day  !  " 

So  much  for  what  should  work  in  Rome :  back  now  770 

To  Arezzo,  follow  up  the  project  there, 

Forward  the  next  step  with  as  bold  a  foot. 

And  plague  Pompilia  to  the  height,  you  see! 

Accordingly  did  Guido  set  himself 

To  worry  up  and  down,  across,  around,  775 

The  woman,  hemmed  in  by  her  household-bars,  — 

Chase  her  about  the  coop  of  daily  life. 

Having  first  stopped  each  outlet  thence  save  one 

Which,  like  bird  with  a  ferret  in  her  haunt, 


She  needs  must  seize  as  sole  way  of  escape  780 

Though  there  was  tied  and  twittering  a  decoy 

To  seem  as  if  it  tempted, — just  the  plume 

O^  the  popinjay,  not  a  real  respite  there 

From  tooth  and  claw  of  something  in  the  daric, — 

Giuseppe  Caponsacchi. 

Now  begins  785 

The  tenebrific  ^  passage  of  the  tale : 
How  hold  a  light,  display  the  cavem^s  gorge? 
How,  in  this  phase  of  the  afiair,  show  truth? 
Here  is  the  dying  wife  who  smiles  and  says 
"  So  it  was,  —  so  it  was  not,  —  how  it  was,  790 

I  never  knew  nor  ever  care  to  know  —  " 
Till  they  all  weep,  physician,  man  of  law, 
Even  that  poor  old  bit  of  battered  brass 
Beaten  out  of  all  shape  by  the  world^s  sins, 
Common  utensil  of  the  lazar-house —  795 

Confessor  Celestino  groans  "  'T  is  truth. 
All  truth  and  only  truth :  there 's  something  here, 
Some  presence  in  the  room  beside  us  all, 
Something  that  every  lie  expires  before : 
No  question  she  was  pure  from  first  to  last/^  800 

So  far  is  well  and  helps  us  to  believe : 
But  beyond,  she  the  helpless,  simple-sweet 
Or  silly-sooth,  unskilled  to  break  one  blow 
At  her  good  feme  by  putting  finger  forth, — 
How  can  she  render  service  to  the  truth  ?  805 

The  bird  says  "  So  I  fluttered  where  a  springe 
Caught  me :  the  springe  did  not  contrive  itself, 
That  I  know :  who  contrived  it,  God  forgive! " 
But  we,  who  hear  no  voice  and  have  dry  eyes, 
Must  ask,  — we  cannot  else,  absolving  ner, —  810 

How  of  the  part  played  by  that  same  decoy 
r  the  catching,  caging?    Was  himself  caught  first? 
We  deal  here  with  no  innocent  at  least. 
No  witless  victim,  —  he's  a  man  of  the  age 
And  priest  beside,  —  persuade  the  mockmg  world  815 

Mere  charity  boiled  over  in  this  sort! 
He  whose  own  safety  too,  —  (the  Pope's  apprised  — 
Good-natured  with  the  secular  offence, 
The  Pope  looks  grave  on  priesthood  in  a  scrape) 
Our  priest's  own  safety  therefore,  may-be  life,  820 

Hangs  on  the  issue !     You  will  find  it  hard. 
Guido  is  here  to  meet  you  with  fixed  foot. 
Stiff  like  a  statue  —  "  Leave  what  went  before  I 
My  wife  fled  i'  the  company  of  a  priest, 

*  Ttnthrfie  :  gloomy. ' 


Spent  two  days  and  two  niehts  alone  with  him :  825 

Leave  what  came  after!  ^    He  stands  hard  to  throw. 

Moreover  priests  are  merely  flesh  and  blood ; 

When  we  get  weakness,  and  no  guilt  beside, 

T  is  no  such  great  ill-fortune :  finding  grey, 

We  gladly  call  that  white  which  mifht  be  black,  830 

Too  used  to  the  double-dye.    So,  if  the  priest, 

Moved  by  Pompilia^s  youth  and  beauty,  gave 

Way  to  the  natural  weakness.  .  .  .    Anyhow 

Here  be  £&cts,  charactery ;  ^  what  they  spell 

Determine,  and  thence  pick  what  sense  you  may !  835 

There  was  a  certain  voung  bold  handsome  priest 

Popular  in  the  city,  far  and  wide 

Famed,  since  Arezzo^s  but  a  little  place. 

As  the  best  of  good  companions,  &;ay  and  grave 

At  the  decent  minute ;  settled  in  his  stall,  840 

Or  sidling,  lute  on  lap,  by  lady^s  couch, 

Ever  the  courtly  Canon ;  see  in  him 

A  proper  star  to  climb  and  culminate. 

Have  its  due  handbreadth  of  the  heaven  at  Rome, 

Though  meanwhile  pausing  on  Arezzo^s  edge,  845 

As  modest  candle  does  ^mid  mountain  fog, 

To  rub  off  redness  and  rusticity 

Ere  it  sweep  chastened,  gain  the  silver-sphere! 

Whether  through  Guidons  absence  or  what  else. 

This  Caponsacchi,  favorite  of  the  town,  850 

Was  yet  no  friend  of  his  nor  free  o^  the  house. 

Though  both  moved  in  the  regular  magnates^  march : 

Each  must  observe  the  other^s  tread  and  halt 

At  church,  saloon,  theatre,  house  of  play. 

Who  could  help  noticing  the  husband^s  slouch,  855 

The  black  of  his  brow  —  or  miss  the  news  that  buzzed 

Of  how  the  little  solitanr  wife 

Wept  and  looked  out  of  window  all  day  long? 

What  need  of  minute  search  into  such  springs 

As  start  men,  set  o'  the  move  ?  —  machinery  860 

Old  as  earth,  obvious  as  the  noonday  sun. 

Why,  take  men  as  they  come,  —  an  instance  now, — 

Of  all  those  who  have  simply  gone  to  see 

Pompilia  on  her  deathbed  since  four  days. 

Half  at  the  least  are,  call  it  how  you  please,  865 

In  love  with  her — I  don't  except  the  priests 

Nor  even  the.  old  confessor  whose  eyes  run 

Over  at  what  he  styles  his  sister's  voice 

Who  died  so  early  and  weaned  him  from  the  world. 

Well,  had  they  viewed  her  ere  the  paleness  pushed  870 

^  Characttry  :  maimer  or  means  of  exprcfiiiig  by  gbanpters. 


The  last  o'  the  red  o'  the  rose  away,  while  yet 

Some  handy  adventurous  ^twixt  the  wind  and  her, 

Mieht  let  shy  life  run  back  and  raise  the  flower 

Ricn  with  reward  up  to  the  guardian^s  £ace,  — 

Would  they  have  kept  that  hand  employed  all  day  875 

At  fumbling  on  with  prayer-book  pages?    No! 

Men  are  men :  why  then  need  I  say  one  word 

More  than  that  our  mere  man  the  Canon  here 

Saw,  pitied,  loved  Pompilia? 

This  is  why ; 
This  startling  why :  that  Caponsacchi^s  self —  880 

Whom  foes  and  mends'  alike  avouch,  for  good 
Or  ill,  a  man  of  truth  whatever  betide. 
Intrepid  altogether,  reckless  too 
How  his  own  fame  and  fortune,  tossed  to  the  winds, 
Suffer  by  any  turn  the  adventure  take,  885 

Nay,  more  —  not  thrusting,  like  a  badge  to  hide, 
'Twixt  shirt  and  skin  a  joy  which  shown  is  shame - 
But  flirting  flag-like  i'  the  fece  o'  the  world 
This  tell-tale  kerchief,  this  conspicuous  love 
For  the  lady,  —  oh,  called  innocent  love,  I  know!  890 

Only,  such  scarlet  fiery  innocence 
As  most  folk  would  try  muflle  up  in  shade,  — 
T  is  strange  then  that  this  else  abashless  mouth 
Should  yet  maintain,  for  truth^s  sake  which  is  God% 
That  it  was  not  he  made  the  first  advance,  895 

That,  even  ere  word  had  passed  between  the  two, 
Pompilia  penned  him  letters,  passionate  prayers, 
If  not  love,  then  so  simulating  love 
That  he,  no  novice  to  the  taste  of  thyme. 
Turned  from  such  over-luscious  honey-clot  900 

At  end  o^  the  flower,  and  would  not  lend  his  lip 
Till  .  .  .  but  the  tale  here  frankly  outsoars  fiuth : 
There  must  be  fiailsehood  somewhere.    For  her  part, 
Pompilia  quietly  constantly  avers 

She  never  penned  a  letter  in  her  life  905 

Nor  to  the  Canon  nor  any  other  man, 
Bein^  incompetent  to  write  and  read : 
Nor  had  she  ever  uttered  word  to  him,  nor  he 
To  her  till  that  same  evening  when  they  met. 
She  on  her  window-terrace,  he  beneath  910 

r  the  public  street,  as  was  their  fateful  chance. 
And  she  adjured  him  in  the  name  of  God 
To  find  out,  bring  to  pass  where,  when  and  how 
Escape  with  him  to  Rome  might  be  contrived. 
Means  were  found,  plan  laid,  time  fixed,  she  avers,  915 

And  heart  assured  to  heart  in  loyalty, 


All  at  ail  impulse!    All  extemporized 

As  in  romance-books !    Is  that  credible  ? 

Well,  yes :  as  she  avers  this  with  calm  moath 

Dying,  I  do  think  " Credible! "  you'd  cry —  gio 

Did  not  the  priest's  voice  come  to  break  the  spell. 

They  questioned  him  apart,  as  the  custom  is, 

When  first  the  matter  made  a  noise  at  Rome, 

And  he,  calm,  constant  then  as  she  is  now. 

For  truth's  sake  did  assert  and  re-assert  925 

Those  letters  called  him  to  her  and  he  came, 

—  Which  damns  the  story  credible  otherwise. 
Why  should  this  man,  —  mad  to  devote  himself 
Careless  what  comes  of  his  own  fame,  the  first,  — 

Be  studious  thus  to  publish  and  declare  930 

Just  what  the  lightest  nature  loves  to  hide, 
So  screening  lady  from  the  byword's  laugh 
"  First  spoke  the  lady,  last  the  cavalier! " 

—  I  say,  —  whv  shomd  the  man  tell  truth  just  now 

When  graceful  lying  meets  such  ready  shmt?  935 

Or  is  there  a  first  moment  for  a  priest 

As  for  a  woman,  when  invaded  shame 

Must  have  its  first  and  last  excuse  to  show? 

Do  both,  contrive  love's  entry  in  the  mind 

Shall  look,  i'  the  manner  of  it,  a  surprise,  —  940 

That  after,  once  the  flag  o'  the  fort  hauled  down, 

Effrontery  may  sink  drawbridge,  open  gate, 

Welcome  and  entertain  the  conqueror? 

Or  what  do  you  say  to  a  touch  of  the  devil's  worst? 

Can  it  be  that  the  husband,  he  who  wrote  945 

The  letter  to  his  brother  I  told  you  of, 

P  the  name  of  her  it  meant  to  criminate,  — 

What  if  he  wrote  those  letters  to  the  priest  ? 

Further  the  priest  says,  when  it  first  befell, 

This  folly  o'  the  letters,  that  he  checked  the  flow,  950 

Put  them  back  lightly  each  with  its  reply. 

Here  again  vexes  new  discrepancy : 

There  never  reached  her  eve  a  word  from  him : 

He  did  write  but  she  could  not  read  —  could  just 

Burn  the  offence  to  wifehood,  womanhood,  955 

So  did  burn :  never  bade  him  come  to  her, 

Yet  when  it  proved  he  must  come,  let  him  come. 

And  when  he  did  come  though  uncalled,  —  why,  spoke 

Prompt  by  an  inspiration :  thus  it  chanced. 

Will  you  go  somewhat  back  to  understand?  960 

When  first,  pursuant  to  his  plan,  there  sprang, 
Like  an  uncaged  beast,  Guido's  cruelty 
On  soul  and  body  of  his  wife,  she  cried 


To  those  whom  law  appoints  resource  for  such^ 

The  secular  e;uardiany  —  that 's  the  Governor,  965 

And  the  Aroibishop,  —  that  ^s  the  spiritual  guide, 

And  prated  them  take  the  claws  from  out  her  flesh 

Now,  this  is  ever  the  ill  consequence 

Of  being  noble,  poor  and  difficult. 

Ungainly,  yet  too  great  to  disregard,  —  970 

This  —  that  born  peers  and  friends  hereditary, — 

Though  disinclined  to  help  from  their  own  store 

The  opprobrious  wight,  put  pennv  in  his  pdce 

From  private  purse  or  leave  the  aoor  ajar 

When  he  goes  wistful  by  at  dinner-time,  —  975 

Yet,  if  his  needs  conduct  him  where  they  sit 

Smugly  in  office,  judge  this,  bishop  that. 

Dispensers  of  the  shine  and  shade  o^  the  place — 

Ana  if,  friend^s  door  shut  and  friend^s  purse  undrawn, 

Still  potentates  may  find  the  office-seat  980 

Do  as  good  service  at  no  cost  —  give  help 

By-the-bye,  pay  up  traditional  dues  at  once 

Just  through  a  feather-weight  too  much  i^  the  scale, 

Or  finger-tip  forgot  at  the  balance-tongue,  — 

Why,  only  churls  refuse,  or  Molinists.  985 

Thus  when,  in  the  first  roughness  of  surprise 

At  Guidons  wolf-face  whence  the  sheepskin  fell, 

The  frightened  couple,  all  bewilderment. 

Rushed  to  the  Governor,  —  who  else  rights  wrong? 

Told  him  their  tale  of  wrong  and  craved  redress  —  990 

Why,  then  the  Governor  woke  up  to  the  fact 

That  Guido  was  a  friend  of  old,  poor  Count!  — 

So,  promptly  paid  his  tribute,  promised  the  pair. 

Wholesome  chastisement  should  soon  cure  their  qualms 

Next  time  they  came,  wept,  prated  and  told  lies :  995 

So  stopped  all  prating,  sent  them  dumb  to  Rome. 

Well,  now  it  was  Pompilia's  turn  to  try : 

The  troubles  pressing  on  her,  as  I  said. 

Three  times  she  rushed,  maddened  by  misery. 

To  the  other  mighty  man,  sobbed  out  her  prayer  1000 

At  footstool  of  the  Archbishop  —  fast  the  friend 

Of  her  husband  also!    Oh,  good  friends  of  yore! 

So,  the  Archbishop,  not  to  be  outdone 

By  the  Governor,  break  custom  more  than  he. 

Thrice  bade  the  foolish  woman  stop  her  tongue,  1005 

Unloosed  her  hands  from  harassing  his  gout. 

Coached  her  and  carried  her  to  the  Count  again, 

—  His  old  friend  should  be  master  in  his  house. 

Rule  his  wife  and  correct  her  faults  at  need! 

Well,  driven  from  post  to  pillar  in  this  wise,  loio 

She,  as  a  last  resource,  betook  herself 


To  one,  should  be  no  family-friend  at  least, 

A  simple  friar  o^  the  dty ;  confessed  to  him, 

Then  told  how  fierce  temptation  of  release 

By  self-dealt  death  was  busy  with  her  soul,  1015 

And  urged  that  he  put  this  in  words,  write  plain 

For  one  who  could  not  write,  set  down  her  prayer 

That  Pietro  and  Violante,  parent-like 

If  somehow  not  her  parents,  should  for  love 

Come  save  her,  pluck  from  out  the  flame  the  brand  1020 

Themselves  had  thoughtlessly  thrust  in  so  deep 

To  send  gay-colored  sparkles  up  and  cheer 

Their  seat  at  the  chimney-comer.    The  eood  friar 

Promised  as  much  at  the  moment ;  but,  zuack. 

Night  brings  discretion :  he  was  no  one^s  friend,  1025 

Yet  presently  found  he  could  not  turn  about 

Nor  take  a  step  i*  the  case  and  fail  to  tread 

On  someone^s  toe  who  either  was  a  friend. 

Or  a  friend^s  friend,  or  friend^s  friend  thrice-removed, 

And  woe  to  friar  by  whom  offences  come!  1030 

So,  the  course  being  plain,  —  with  a  general  sigh 

At  matrimony  the  profound  mistake,  — 

He  threw  reluctantly  the  business  up. 

Having  his  other  penitents  to  mind. 

If  then,  all  outlets  thus  secured  save  one,  1035 

At  last  she  took  to  the  open,  stood  and  stared 

With  her  wan  fece  to  see  where  God  might  wait  — 

And  there  found  Caponsacchi  wait  as  well 

For  the  precious  something  at  perdition^s  edge. 

He  only  "was  predestinate  to  save,  —  1040 

And  if  they  recognized  in  a  critiod  flash 

From  the  zenith,  each  the  other,  her  need  of  him. 

His  need  of  .  .  .  sav,  a  woman  to  perish  for. 

The  regular  way  o'  tne  world,  yet  break  no  vow. 

Do  no  harm  save  to  himself,  —  if  this  were  thus?  1045 

How  do  you  say?    It  were  improbable ; 

So  is  the  legend  of  my  patron-saint. 

Anyhow,  whether,  as  Guido  states  the  case, 

Pompilia, — like  a  starving  wretch  i'  the  street 

Who  stops  and  rifles  the  nrst  passenger  1050 

In  the  great  right  of  an  excessive  wrong, — 

Did  somehow  call  this  stranger  and  he  came, — 

Or  whether  the  strange  sudden  interview 

Blazed  as  when  star  and  star  must  needs  go  close 

Till  each  hurts  each  and  there  is  loss  in  heaven —  1055 

Whatever  way  in  this  strange  world  it  was,  — 

Pompilia  and  Caponsacchi  met,  in  fine. 


She  at  her  window,  he  i^  the  street  beneath. 
And  understood  each  other  at  first  look. 

All  was  determined  and  performed  at  once.  1060 

And  on  a  certain  April  evening,  late 

r  the  month,  this  girl  of  sixteen,  bride  and  wife 

Three  years  and  over,  —  she  who  hitherto 

Had  never  taken  twenty  steps  in  Rome 

Beyond  the  church,  pinned  to  her  mother^s  gown,  1065 

Nor,  in  Arezzo,  knew  her  way  through  street 

Except  what  led  to  the  Archbishop's  door,  — 

Such  an  one  rose  up  in  the  dark,  laid  hand 

On  what  came  first,  clothes  and  a  trinket  or  two, 

Belongings  of  her  own  in  the  old  day,  —  1070 

Stole  from  the  side  o'  the  sleeping  spouse  —  who  knows? 

Sleeping;  perhaps,  silent  for  certain, — slid 

Ghost-like  from  great  dark  room  to  great  dark  room 

In  through  the  tapestries  and  out  again 

And  onward,  unembarrassed  as  a  fate,  1075 

Descended  staircase,  eained  last  door  of  all, 

Sent  it  wide  open  at  nrst  push  of  palm. 

And  there  stood,  first  time,  last  and  only  time. 

At  libertjr,  alone  in  the  open  street, — 

Unquestioned,  unmolested  found  herself  1080 

At  the  city  gate,  by  Caponsacchi's  side, 

Hope  there,  joy  there,  life  and  all  good  again. 

The  carriage  there,  the  convoy  there,  light  there 

Broadening  ever  into  blaze  at  Rome 

And  breaking  small  what  Xong  miles  lay  between ;  1085 

Up  she  sprang,  in  he  followed,  they  were  safe 

The  husband  quotes  this  for  incredible. 

All  of  the  story  from  first  word  to  last : 

Sees  the  priest's  hand  throughout  upholding  hers. 

Traces  his  foot  to  the  alcove,  that  night,  1090 

Whither  and  whence  blindfold  he  knew  the  way, 

Proficient  in  all  craft  and  stealthiness ; 

And  cites  for  proof  a  servant,  eye  that  watched 

And  ear  that  opened  to  purse  secrets  up, 

A  woman-spy,  —  suborned  to  give  and  take  1095 

Letters  and  tokens,  do  the  wonc  of  shame 

The  more  adroitly  that  herself,  who  helped 

Communion  thus  between  a  tainted  pair. 

Had  long  since  been  a  leper  thjck  in  spot, 

A  common  trull  o'  the  town :  she  witnessed  all,  11 00 

Helped  many  meetings,  partings,  took  her  wage 

And  then  told  Guido  the  whole  matter.     Lies! 

The  woman's  life  confutes  her  word,  —  her  word 


Confutes  itself:   '<  Thus,  thus  and  thus  I  lied.*^ 

^  And  thus,  no  question,  still  you  lie/^  we  say.  1 105 

^  Ay,  but  at  last,  e>n  have  it  how  you  will, 

Whatever  the  means,  whatever  the  way,  eicplodes 

The  consummation  " —  the  accusers  shriek : 

"  Here  is  the  wife  avowedly  found  in  flight. 

And  the  companion  of  her  flight,  a  priest ;  1 1 10 

She  flies  her  husband,  he  the  churcn  his  spouse : 

What  is  this?" 

Wife  and  priest  alike  reply 
''  This  is  the  simple  thing  it  claims  to  be, 
A  course  we  took  for  life  and  honoris  sake. 
Very  strange,  very  justifiable.**  1 1 1 5 

She  says,  <<  God  put  it  in  my  head  to  fly. 
As  when  the  martin  migrates :  autumn  claps 
Her  hands,  cries  <  Winter^s  coming,  will  be  here, 
Off  with  you  ere  the  white  teeth  overtake! 
Flee!  *    So  I  fled :  this  friend  was  the  warm  day,  11 20 

The  south  wind  and  whatever  £&vors  flight ; 
I  took  the  £&vor,  had  the  help,  how  else  ? 
And  so  we  did  fly  rapidly  all  night, 
All  day,  all  night  —  a  longer  night — again. 
And  then  another  day,  longest  of  days,  11 25 

And  all  the  while,  whether  we  fled  or  stopped, 
I  scarce  know  how  or  why,  one  thought  filled  both, 
'  Fly  and  arrive!  *    So  long  as  I  found  strength 
I  talked  with  my  companion,  told  him  much. 
Knowing  that  he  knew  more,  knew  me,  knew  God  11 30 

And  God's  disposal  of  me,  —  but  the  sense 
O'  the  blessed  flight  absorbed  me  in  the  main, 
And  speech  became  mere  talking  through  a  sleep. 
Till  at  the  end  of  that  last  longest  night 
In  a  red  daybreak,  when  we  reached  an  inn  1 135 

And  my  companion  whispered  *  Next  stage  —  Rome! ' 
Sudden  the  weak  flesh  fell  like  piled-up  cards, 
All  the  frail  fabric  at  a  finger's  touch, 
And  prostrate  the  poor  soul  too,  and  I  said 
^  But  though  Count  Guido  were  a  furlong  off,  1 140 

Just  on  me,  I  must  stop  and  rest  awhile!' 
Then  something  like  a  huge  white  wave  o'  the  sea 
Broke  o'er  my  brain  and  buried  me  in  sleep 
Blessedly,  till  it  ebbed  and  left  me  loose, 
And  where  was  I  found  but  on  a  strange  bed  1145 

In  a  stranee  room  like  hell,  roaring  with  noise, 
Ruddy  wiSi  flame,  and  filled  with  men,  in  front 



Who  but  the  man  you  call  my  husband  ?  ay  -^ 

Count  Guido  once  more  between  heaven  and  mei 

For  there  my  heaven  stood,  my  salvation,  yes —  1150 

That  Caponsacchi  all  my  heaven  of  help, 

Helpless  himself,  held  prisoner  in  the  hands 

Of  men  who  looked  up  in  mv  husband^s  £ace 

To  take  the  faXt  thence  he  snould  signify, 

Just  as  the  way  was  at  Arezzo.    Then,  1155 

Not  for  my  sake  but  his  who  had  helped  me  — 

I  sprang  up,  reached  him  with  one  bound,  and  seized 

The  sword  o'  the  felon,  trembling  at  his  side, 

Fit  creature  of  a  coward,  unsheathed  the  thing 

And  would  have  pinned  him  through  the  poison-bag         11 60 

To  the  wall  and  left  him  there  to  palpitate. 

As  you  serve  scorpions,  but  men  interposed  — 

Disarmed  me,  gave  his  life  to  him  aeam 

That  he  might  take  mine  and  the  other  lives, 

And  he  has  done  so.     I  submit  myself  !^^  1165 

The  priest  says  —  oh,  and  in  the  main  result 

The  fects  asseverate,  he  truly  says. 

As  to  the  very  act  and  deed  of  him. 

However  you  mistrust  the  mind  o'  the  man — 

The  flight  was  just  for  flight's  sake,  no  pretext  11 70 

For  aught  except  to  set  Pompilia  free. 

He  says  <<  I  cite  the  husband's  self's  worst  charge 

In  proof  of  my  best  word  for  both  of  us. 

Be  it  conceded  that  so  many  times 

We  took  our  pleasure  in  his  palace :  then,  1175 

What  need  to  fly  at  all  ?  —  or  flying  no  less. 

What  need  to  outra^^e  the  lips  sick  and  white 

Of  a  woman,  and  bnng  ruin  down  beside. 

By  halting  when  Rome  lay  one  stage  beyond?  " 

So  does  he  vindicate  Pompilia's  fame,  11 80 

Confirm  her  story  in  all  points  but  one  — 

This ;  that,  so  fleeing  and  so  breathing  forth 

Her  last  strength  in  the  prayer  to  halt  awhile. 

She  makes  confusion  of  the  reddening  white 

Which  was  the  sunset  when  her  strength  gave  way,  1 185 

And  the  next  sunrise  and  its  whitenii^g  red 

Which  she  revived  in  when  her  husband  came : 

She  mixes  both  times,  mom  and  eve,  in  one. 

Having  lived  through  a  blank  of  night  'twixt  each 

Though  dead-sleep,  unaware  as  a  corpse,  1 190 

She  on  the  bed  above ;  her  friend  below 

Watched  in  the  doorway  of  the  inn  the  while. 

Stood  i'  the  red  o'  the  morn,  that  she  mistakes, 

In  act  to  rouse  and  quicken  the  tardy  crew 

And  hurry  out  the  horses,  have  the  stage  1 195 


Over,  the  last  league^  reach  Rome  and  be  safe : 
When  up  came  Guido. 

Guidons  tale  begins  — 
How  he  and  his  whole  household,  drunk  to  death 
By  some  enchanted  potion,  poppied  drugs 
Plied  by  the  wife,  lay  powerless  in  gross  sleep  1200 

And  lett  the  spoilers  unimpeded  way, 
Could  not  shake  off  their  poison  and  pursue, 
Till  noontide,  then  made  shift  to  get  on  horse 
And  did  pursue :  which,  means  he  took  his  time. 
Pressed  on  no  more  than  lingered  after,  step  1205 

By  step,  just  making;  sure  o'  the  fugitives. 
Till  at  the  nick  of  time,  he  saw  his  chance. 
Seized  it,  came  up  with  and  surprised  the  pair. 
How  he  must  needs  have  gnawn  lip  and  gnashed  teeth, 
Taking  successively  at  tower  and  town,  12 10 

Village  and  roadside,  still  the  same  report 
<^  Yes,  such  a  pair  arrived  an  hour  ago. 
Sat  in  the  carriage  just  where  now  you  stand, 
While  we  got  horses  ready,  —  turned  deaf  ear 
To  all  entreaty  they  would  even  alight ;  12 15 

Counted  the  minutes  and  resumed  their  course.^ 
Would  they  indeed  escape,  arrive  at  Rome, 
Leave  no  least  loop-hole  to  let  murder  through, 
But  foil  him  of  his  captured  infamy. 

Prize  of  ffuilt  proved  and  perfect  ?    So  It  seemed.  1220 

Till,  oh  the  happy  chance,  at  last  stage,  Rome 
But  two  short  hours  off,  Castelnuovo  reached, 
The  guardian  angel  gave  reluctant  place, 
Satan  stepped  forward  with  alacritv, 

Pompilia^s  flesh  and  blood  succumbed,  perforce  1225 

A  halt  was,  and  her  husband  had  his  will. 
Perdue  he  couched,  counted  out  hour  by  hour 
Till  he  should  spy  in  the  east  a  signal-streak  — 
Night  had  been,  morrow  was,  triumph  would  be. 
Do  you  see  the  plan  deliriously  complete  ?  1230 

The  rush  upon  the  unsuspecting  sleep. 
The  easy  execution,  the  outcry 
Over  the  deed  "  Take  notice  all  the  world ! 
These  two  dead  bodies,  locked  still  in  embrace,  — 
The  man  is  Caponsacchi  and  a  priest,  1235 

The  woman  is  my  wife  :  they  fled  me  late, 
Thus  have  I  found  and  you  behold  them  thus, 
And  may  judge  me :  do  you  approve  or  no  ?  " 

Success  did  seem  not  so  improbable. 

But  that  already  Satan^s  laugh  was  heard,  1240 

His  black  back  turned  on  Guido  —  left  i^  the  lurch 



Or  rather,  baulked  of  suit  and  service  now. 

Left  to  improve  on  both  by  one  deed  more, 

Burn  up  the  better  at  no  distant  day, 

Body  and  soul  one  holocaust  to  hell.  1245 

Anyhow,  of  this  natural  consequence 

Did  just  the  last  link  of  the  long  chain  snap : 

For  an  eruption  was  o'  the  priest,  alive 

And  alert,  calm,  resolute  and  formidable. 

Not  the  least  look  of  fear  in  that  broad  brow —  1250 

One  not  to  be  disposed  of  by  surprise. 

And  armed  moreover  —  who  had  guessed  as  much  ? 

Yes,  there  stood  he  in  secular  costume 

Complete  from  head  to  heel,  with  sword  at  side, 

He  seemed  to  know  the  trick  of  perfectly.  1255 

There  was  no  prompt  suppression  of  the  man 

As  he  said  calmly  "  I  have  saved  your  wife 

From  death ;  there  was  no  other  way  but  this ; 

Of  what  do  I  defraud  you  except  death  ? 

Charge  any  wrong  beyond,  I  answer  it."  1260 

Guido,  the  valorous,  had  met  his  match, 

Was  forced  to  demand  help  instead  of  fight, 

Bid  the  authorities  o^  the  place  lend  aid 

And  make  the  best  of  a  broken  matter  so. 

They  soon  obeyed  the  summons  —  I  suppose,  1265 

Apprised  and  ready,  or  not  far  to  seek  — 

Laid  hands  on  Caponsacchi,  found  in  fault, 

A  priest  yet  flagrantly  accoutred  thus,  — 

Then,  to  make  good  Count  Guido's  further  charge, 

Proceeded,  prisoner  made  lead  the  way,  1270 

In  a  crowd,  upstairs  to  the  chamber-door 

Where  wax-white,  dead  asleep,  deep  beyond  dream, 

As  the  priest  laid  her,  lay  Pompilia  yet. 

And  as  he  mounted  step  and  step  with  the  crowd 

How  I  see  Guido  taking  heart  again!  1275 

He  knew  his  wife  so  well  and  the  way  of  her — 

How  at  the  outbreak  she  would  shroud  her  shame 

In  helps  heart,  would  it  mercifully  yawn  — 

How,  failing  that,  her  forehead  to  his  foot. 

She  would  crouch  silent  till  the  great  doom  fell,  1280 

Leave  him  triumphant  with  the  crowd  to  see 

Guilt  motionless  or  writhing  like  a  worm! 

No  !    Second  misadventure,  this  worm  turned, 

I  told  you :  would  have  slain  him  on  the  spot 

With  his  own  weapon,  but  they  seized  her  hands :  1285 

Leaving  her  tongue  free,  as  it  tolled  the  knell 

Of  Guido's  hope  so  lively  late.    The  past 

Took  quite  another  shape  now.    She  who  shrieked 


^  At  least  and  for  ever  I  am  mine  and  God% 

Thanks  to  his  liberating  angel  Death —  1290 

Never  again  degraded  to  be  yours 

The  ignoble  noble,  the  unmanly  man, 

The  l^ast  below  the  beast  in  brutishness!^  — 

This  was  the  froward  child,  ^^  the  restif  lamb 

Used  to  be  cherished  in  his  breast,"  he  eroaned  —  1295 

'^  Eat  from  his  hand  and  drink  from  out  his  cup, 

The  while  his  fingers  pushed  their  loving  way 

Throue;h  curl  on  curl  of  that  soft  coat  —  alas. 

And  she  all  silverly  baaed  eratitude 

While  meditating  mischief!" — and  so  forth.  1300 

He  must  invent  another  story  now! 

The  ins  and  outs  o^  the  rooms  were  searched :   he  found 

Or  showed  for  found  the  abominable  prize  — 

Love-letters  from  his  wife  who  cannot  write, 

Love-letters  in  replv  o'  the  priest  —  thank  God!  —  1305 

Who  can  write  and  confront  his  character 

With  this,  and  prove  the  false  thing  forged  throughout : 

Spitting  whereat,  he  needs  must  spatter  whom 

But  Guidons  self? — that  forged  and  falsified 

One  letter  called  Pompilia^s,  past  dispute :  13 10 

Then  why  not  these  to  make  sure  still  more  sure? 

So  was  the  case  concluded  then  and  there : 

Guido  preferred  his  charges  in  due  form. 

Called  on  the  law  to  adjudicate,  consigned 

The  accused  ones  to  the  Prefect  of  the  place,  13 15 

(Oh  mouse-birth  of  that  mountain-like  revenge!) 

And  so  to  his  own  place  betook  himself 

After  the  spring  that  £uled, — the  wildcat's  way. 

The  captured  parties  were  conveyed  to  Rome ; 

Investigation  followed  here  i'  the  court  —  1320 

Soon  to  review  the  fruit  of  its  own  work. 

From  then  to  now  being  eieht  months  and  no  more. 

Guido  kept  out  of  sight  and  safe  at  home : 

The  Abate,  brother  Paolo,  helped  most 

At  words  when  deeds  were  out  of  question,  pushed  1325 

Nearest  the  purple,^  best  played  deputy, 

So,  pleaded.  Guidons  representative 

At  the  court  shall  soon  try  Guidons  self,  —  what 's  more^ 

The  court  that  also  took  —  I  told  you.  Sir — 

That  statement  of  the  couple,  how  a  cheat  1330 

Had  been  i'  the  birth  of  the  babe,  no  child  of  theirs. 

That  was  the  prelude ;  this,  the  play's  first  act : 

Whereof  we  wait  what  comes,  crown,  close  of  all. 

^  The  purpU :  the  color  of  the  cardinals. 


Well,  the  result  was  something  of  a  shade 
On  the  parties  thus  accused,  —  how  otherwise?  1335 

Shade,  but  with  shine  as  unmistakable. 
Each  had  a  prompt  defence :  Pompilia  first  — 
'^  Earth  was  made  hell  to  me  who  did  no  harm : 
I  only  could  emerge  one  way  from  hell 

By  catching  at  the  one  hand  held  me,  so  1340 

I  caught  at  it  and  thereby  stepped  to  heaven : 
If  that  be  wrong,  do  with  me  what  you  will ! " 
Then  Caponsacchi  with  a  grave  grand  sweep 
O'  the  arm  as  though  his  soul  warned  baseness  off — 
^'  If  as  a  man,  then  much  more  as  a  priest  1345 

I  hold  me  bound  to  help  weak  innocence : 
If  so  my  worldly  reputation  burst, 
Being  the  bubble*  it  is,  why,  burst  it  may : 
Blame  I  can  bear  though  not  blameworthiness. 
But  use  your  sense  firsl^  see  if  the  miscreant  proved,         1350 
The  man  who  tortured  thus  the  woman,  thus 
Have  not  both  laid  the  trap  and  fixed  the  lure 
Over  the  pit  should  bury  body  and  soul ! 
His  facts  are  lies :  his  letters  are  the  fact — 
An  infiltration  flavored  with  himself!  1355 

As  for  the  fiuicies  —  whether  ....  what  is  it  you  say? 
The  lady  loves  me,  whether  I  love  her 
In  the  forbidden  sense  of  your  surmise, — 
If,  with  the  midday  blaze  of  truth  above, 
The  unlidded  eye  of  God  awake,  aware,  1360 

You  needs  must  pry  about  and  trace  the  birth 
Of  each  stray  beam  of  light  may  traverse  night, 
To  the  night's  sun  that 's  Lucifer  himself. 
Do  so,  at  other  time,  in  other  place. 

Not  now  nor  here  !    Enough  that  first  to  last  1365 

I  never  touched  her  lip  nor  she  my  hand 
Nor  either  of  us  thought  a  thought,  much  less 
Spoke  a  word  which  the  Virgin  might  not  hear. 
Be  such  your  question,  thus  I  answer  it." 
Then  the  court  had  to  make  its  mind  up,  spoke.  1370 

^^  It  is  a  thorny  question,  yea,  a  tale 
Hard  to  believe,  but  not  impossible : 
Who  can  be  absolute  for  either  side  ? 
,  A  middle  course  is  happily  open  yet. 
Here  has  a  blot  surprised  the  social  blank, —  1375 

Whether  through  favor,  feebleness  or  fault. 
No  matter,  leprosy  has  touched  our  robe 
And  we  unclean  must  needs  be  purified. 

"^  If  so   my  worldly  reputation  bursty  being  the  bubble  it  is  :   recalls  Shakespeare 
"  As  You  Like  It/»  II.  vii.  xsa. 


Here  is  a  wife  makes  holiday  from  home, 

A  priest  caught  playing  truant  to  his  church,  2380 

In  masquerade  moreover :  both  allege 

Enough  excuse  to  stop  our  lifted  scourge 

Which  else  would  heavily  £all.    On  the  other  hand. 

Here  is  a  husband,  ay  and  man  of  mark. 

Who  comes  complaining  here,  demands  redress  1385 

As  if  he  were  the  pattern  of  desert — 

The  while  those  plaguv  allefi;ations  frown, 

Forbid  we  grant  him  the  redress  he  seeks. 

To  all  men  be  our  moderation  known! 

Rewarding  none  while  compensating  each,  1390 

Hurting  aJl  round  though  harming  nobody, 

Husband,  wife,  priest,  scot-free  not  one  shall  ^scape, 

Yet  priest,  wife,  husband,  boast  the  unbroken  hesid 

From  application  of  our  excellent  oil : 

So  that,  whatever  be  the  fact,  in  fine,  1395 

We  make  no  miss  of  justice  in  a  sort. 

First,  let  the  husband  stomach  as  he  may. 

His  wife  shall  neither  be  returned  him,  no — 

Nor  branded,  whipped  and  caged,  but  just  consigned 

To  a  convent  and  the  quietude  she  craves ;  1400 

So  is  he  rid  of  his  domestic  plague : 

What  better  thing  can  happen  to  a  man? 

Next,  let  the  priest  retire — unshent,  unshamed. 

Unpunished  as  for  perpetrating  crime. 

But  relegated  (not  imprisoned.  Sirs!)  1405 

Sent  for  three  years  to  clarify  his  youth 

At  Civita,^  a  rest  bv  the  way  to  Rome : 

There  let  his  life  skim  off  its  last  of  lees 

Nor  keep  this  dubious  color.    Judeed  the  cause : 

AU  parties  may  retire,  content,  we  nope."  1410 

That  ^s  Rome^s  way,  the  traditional  road  of  law ; 

Whither  it  leads  is  what  remains  to  tell. 

The  priest  went  to  his  relegation-place. 

The  wife  to  her  convent,  brother  Paolo 

To  the  arms  of  brother  Guido  with  the  news  141 5 

And  this  beside  —  his  charge  was  countercharged ; 

The  Comparini,  his  old  brace  of  hates. 

Were  breathed  and  vigilant  and  venomous  now — 

Had  shot  a  second  bolt  where  the  first  stuck. 

And  followed  up  the  pending  dowry-suit  1420 

By  a  procedure  should  release  the  wife 

From  so  much  of  the  marriaee-bond  as  barred 

Escape  when  Guido  tiuned  the  screw  too  much 

1  Civiia  :  Civita  Vecchb,  a  seaport  near  Roma. 



On  his  wife^s  flesh  and  blood,  as  husband  may. 

No  more  defence,  she  turned  and  made  attack,  1425 

Claimed  now  divorce  from  bed  and  board,  in  short : 

Pleaded  such  subtle  strokes  of  cruelty. 

Such  slow  sure  siege  laid  to  her  body  and  soul. 

As,  proved,  —  and  proofs  seemed  coming  thick  and  fast, — 

Would  gain  both  freedom  and  the  dowry  back  1430 

Even  should  the  first  suit  leave  them  in  his  grasp : 

So  urged  the  Comparini  for  the  wife. 

Guido  had  gained  not  one  of  the  good  things 

He  grasped  at  by  his  creditable  plan 

O^  the  flight  and  following  and  the  rest :  the  suit  1435 

That  smouldered  late  was  fanned  to  fury  new. 

This  adjunct  came  to  help  with  fiercer  nre. 

While  he  had  got  himself  a  quite  new  plague  — 

Found  the  world's  face  an  universal  grin 

At  this  last  best  of  the  Hundred  Merry  Tales  *  1440 

Of  how  a  young  and  sprightly  clerk  devised 

To  carry  off"  a  spouse  that  moped  too  much. 

And  cured  her  of  the  vapors  in  a  trice : 

And  how  the  husband,  playing  Vulcan's  ^  part, 

Told  by  the  Sun,  started  in  hot  pursuit  1445 

To  catch  the  lovers,  and  came  halting  up. 

Cast  his  net  and  then  called  the  Gods  to  see 

The  convicts  in  their  rosy  impudence  — 

Whereat  said  Mercury  "Would  that  I  were  Mars!" 

Oh  it  was  rare,  and  naughty  all  the  same!  1450 

Brief,  the  wife's  courage  and  cunning,  —  the  priest's  show 

Of  chivalry  and  adroitness,  —  last  not  least. 

The  husband  —  how  he  ne'er  showed  teeth  at  all. 

Whose  bark  had  promised  biting ;  but  just  sneaiked 

Back  to  his  kennel,  tail  'twixt  legs,  as  't  were,  —  1455 

All  this  was  hard  to  gulp  down  and  di&^est. 

So  pays  the  devil  his  liegeman,  brass  Tor  gold. 

But  this  was  at  Arezzo :  here  in  Rome 

Brave  Paolo  bore  up  against  it  all  — 

Battled  it  out,  nor  wanting  to  himself  1460 

Nor  Guido  nor  the  House  whose  weight  he  bore 

Pillar-like,  by  no  force  of  arm  but  brain. 

He  knew  his  Rome,  what  wheels  to  set  to  work ; 

Plied  influential  folk,  pressed  to  the  ear 

*  Hundred    Merry     Tales  :     Browning  Roman  citizen  would,  however,  be  more  likdy 

seems   to   be  thinking  here   of  "  A  C  Mery  to  have  in   mind  Boccaccio's  **  Decameron," 

Talys  "  (A  Hundred  Merry  Tales) ,  a  collec-  which  contained  a  hundred  stories, 
tion  of  short  stories  published  in  England  in         *  Fu/can's   part:     referring    to    Homer 

1526  by  John  Rastell.    The  titles  in  the  table  ("  Odyssey,"  viii.  266  ff.),  where  Hephaestus 

of  contents  are  exactly  in  the  manner  of  the  (Vulcan)  is  deceived  by  Aphrodite  (Venus)i 

story  cited  here,  all  beginning  with  '*  Of."   A  his  wife,  and  Ares  (Mars),  her  lover. 

Ttii:  dTHM  HALF-kOME,  idj 

Of  the  efficacious  purple,  pushed  his  wa^  1465 

To  the  old  Pope's  self,  —  past  decency  indeed, — 
Praying  him  take  the  matter  in  his  hands 
Out  of  the  regular  court's  incompetence. 
But  times  are  changed  and  nephews  out  of  date 
And  £Eivoritism  un&hionable :  the  Pope  1470 

Said  ^^  Render  Caesar  what  is  Caesar's  due! " 
As  for  the  Comparini's  counter-plea, 
He  met  that  bv  a  counter-plea  aepun. 
Made  Guido  claim  divorce  —  with  help  so  hx 
By  the  trial's  issue :  for,  why  punishment  1475 

However  slight  unless  for  guiltiness 
However  slender?  —  and  a  molehill  serves 
Much  as  a  mountain  of  offence  this  way. 
So  was  he  gathering  strength  on  every  side 
And  ep'owing  more  and  more  to  menace  —  when  1480 

All  of  a  terrible  moment  came  the  blow 
'  That  beat  down  Paolo's  fence,  ended  the  play 
O'  the  foil  and  brought  mannaia^  on  the  stage. 

Five  months  had  passed  now  since  Pompilia's  flight, 

Months  spent  in  peace  among  the  Convert  nuns.  1485 

This,  —  b«ing,  as  it  seemed,  for  Guido's  sake 

Solely,  what  pride  might  call  imprisonment 

And  quote  as  something  gained,  to  friends  at  home,  — 

This  naturally  was  at  Guido's  charge : 

Grudge  it  he  might,  but  penitential  fare,  1490 

Prayers,  preachines,  who  but  he  defraved  the  cost? 

So,  Paolo  dropped,  as  proxv,  doit  by  aoit 

Like  heart's  blood,  till  —  wnat  's  here?    What  notice  comes? 

The  convent's  self  makes  application  bland 

That,  since  Pompilia's  health  is  £^t  o'  the  wane,  1495 

She  may  have  leave  to  eo  combine  her  cure 

Of  soul  with  cure  of  body,  mend  her  mind 

Together  with  her  thin  arms  and  sunk  eyes 

That  want  fresh  air  outside  the  convent-wall, 

Say  in  a  friendly  house,  —  and  which  so  fit  1500 

As  a  certain  villa  in  the  Pauline  way. 

That  happens  to  hold  Pietro  and  his  wife. 

The  natural  guardians  ?    ^^  Oh,  and  shift  the  care 

You  shift  the  cost,  too ;  Pietro  pays  in  turn. 

And  lightens  Guido  of  a  load!    And  then,  1505 

Villa  or  convent,  two  names  for  one  thing. 

Always  the  sojourn  means  imprisonment, 

Domus  pro  carcere  *  —  nowise  we  relax. 

Nothing  abate :  how  answers  Paolo  ?  " 

*  Mannaia  :  wot  note,  I.  1390.  '  Domus  pro  carcere:  see  note,  II.  1333. 

i04  THE  RING  AND  tH£  BOOX. 

What  would  you  answer?    All  so  smooth  and  ^r,  1510 

Even  Paul's  astuteness  sniffed  no  harm  i^  the  world. 
He  authorized  the  transfer,  saw  it  made 
And,  two  months  after,  reaped  the  fruit  of  the  samCi 
Having  to  sit  down,  rack  his  brain  and  find 
What  phrase  should  serve  him  best  to  notify  151 5 

Our  Guido  that  by  happy  providence 
A  son  and  heir,  a  babe  was  born  to  him 
r  the  villa,  —  go  tell  sympathizing  friends! 
Yes,  such  had  been  Pompilia's  pnvilege : 
She,  when  she  fled  was  one  month  gone  with  child,  1520 

Known  to  herself  or  unknown,  either  way 
Availing  to  explain  (say  men  of  art) 
The  strange  and  passionate  precipitance 
Of  maiden  startled  into  motherhood 

Which  changes  body  and  soul  by  nature^s  law.  1525 

So  when  the  she-dove  breeds,  strange  yearnings  come 
For  the  unknown  shelter  by  undreamed-of  shores. 
And  there  is  born  a  blood-pulse  in  her  heart 
To  fight  if  needs  be,  though  with  flap  of  wing, 
For  the  wool-flock  or  the  fur-tuft,  though  a  hawk  1 530 

Contest  the  prize,  —  wherefore,  she  knows  not  yet. 
Anyhow,  thus  to  Guido  came  the  news. 
"  I  shall  have  quitted  Rome  ere  you  arrive 
To  take  the  one  step  left," — wrote  Paolo. 
Then  did  the  winch  o'  the  winepress  of  all  hate,  1535 

Vanity,  disappointment,  grudge  and  greed. 
Take  the  last  turn  that  screws  out  pure  revenge 
With  a  bright  bubble  at  the  brim  beside  — 
By  an  heir's  birth  he  was  assured  at  once 
O'  the  main  prize,  all  the  money  in  dispute :  1540 

Pompilia's  dowry  might  revert  to  her 
Or  stay  with  him  as  Taw's  caprice  should  point,  — 
But  now  —  now  —  what  was  Pietro's  shall  be  hers, 
What  was  hers  shall  remain  her  own,  —  if  hers. 
Why  then,  —  oh,  not  her  husband's  but  —  her  heir's!         1545 
That  heir  being  his  too,  all  grew  his  at  last 
By  this  road  or  by  that  road,  since  they  join. 
Before,  why,  push  he  Pietro  out  o'  the  world,  — 
The  current  of  the  money  stopped,  you  see, 
Pompilia  being  proved  no  Pietro's  child :  1550 

Or  let  it  be  Pompilia's  life  he  quenched. 
Again  the  current  of  the  money  stopped,  — 
Guido  debarred  his  rights  as  husband  soon, 
So  the  new  process  threatened ;  —  now,  the  chance, 
Now,  the  resplendent  minute  !    Clear  the  earth,  1555 

Cleanse  the  house,  let  the  three  but  disappear 


A  child  remains,  depositary  of  all. 

That  Guido  may  enjoy  his  own  aeain, 

Repair  all  losses  by  a  master-stroke. 

Wipe  out  the  past,  all  done  all  left  undone,  1560 

Swell  the  good  present  to  best  evermore. 

Die  into  new  life,  which  let  blood  baptize! 

So,  i^  the  blue  of  a  sudden  sulphur-blaze. 

Both  why  there  was  one  step  to  take  at  Rome, 

And  why  he  should  not  meet  with  Paolo  there,  1565 

He  saw  —  the  ins  and  outs  to  the  heart  of  hell  — 

And  took  the  straight  line  thither  swift  and  sure. 

He  rushed  to  Vittiano,  found  four  sons  o^  the  soil, 

Brutes  of  his  breeding,  with  one  spark  i^  the  clod 

That  served  for  a  soul,  the  looking  up  to  him  1570 

Or  aught  called  Franceschini  as  life,  death, 

Heaven,  hell,  —  lord  paramount,  assembled  these. 

Harangued,  equipped,  instructed,  pressed  each  clod 

With  his  wilPs  imprint ;  then  took  horse,  plied  spur, 

And  so  arrived,  all  five  of  them,  at  Rome  1575 

On  Christmas-£ve,  and  forthwith  found  themselves 

Installed  i^  the  vacancy  and  solitude 

Left  them  by  Paolo,  the  considerate  man 

Who,  good  as  his  word,  had  disappeared  at  once 

As  if  to  leave  the  stage  free.    A  whole  week  1580 

Did  Guido  spend  in  study  of  his  part, 

Then  played  it  fearless  of  a  failure.    One, 

Struck  the  yearns  clock  whereof  the  hours  are  days, 

And  off  was  rung  o'  the  little  wheels  the  chime 

"Good  will  on  earth  and  peace  to  man : "  but,  two,  1585 

Proceeded  the  same  bell  and,  evening  come. 

The  dreadful  five  felt  finger-wise  their  way 

Across  the  town  by  blind  cuts  and  black  turns 

To  the  little  lone  suburban  villa ;  knocked  — 

"  Who  may  be  outside?  "  called  a  well-known  voice.  1590 

"  A  friend  of  Caponsacchi^s  bringing  friends 

A  letter." 

That 's  a  test,  the  excusers  say : 
Ay,  and  a  test  conclusive,  I  return. 
What  ?    Had  that  name  brought  touch  of  guilt  or  taste 
Of  fear  with  it,  aught  to  dash  the  present  joy  1 595 

With  memory  of  the  sorrow  just  at  end, — 
She,  happy  in  her  parents'  arms  at  length 
With  the  new  blessing  of  the  two  weeks'  babe,  — 
How  had  that  name's  announcement  moved  the  wife? 
Or,  as  the  other  slanders  circulate,  1600 

Were  Caponsacchi  no  rare  visitant 
On  nights  and  days  whither  safe  harbor  lured, 


What  bait  had  been  i^  the  name  to  ope  the  door? 

The  promise  of  a  letter?    Stealthy  guests 

Have  secret  watchwords,  private  entrances :  1 605 

The  man's  own  self  might  have  been  found  inside 

And  all  the  scheme  made  frustrate  by  a  word. 

No :  but  since  Guido  knew,  none  knew  so  well. 

The  man  had  never  since  returned  to  Rome 

Nor  seen  the  wife's  face  more  than  villa's  front,  1610 

So,  could  not  be  at  hand  to  warn  or  save, — 

For  that,  he  took  this  sure  way  to  the  end. 

"  Come  in,"  bade  poor  Violante  cheerfully, 

Drawing  the  door-bolt :  that  death  was  the  first, 

Stabbea  through  and  through .   Pietro,  close  on  her  heels,    1 61 5 

Set  up  a  cry  —  **  Let  me  confess  myself ! 

Grant  but  confession!  "    Cold  steel  was  the  grant. 

Then  came  Pompilia's  turn. 

Then  they  escaped. 
The  noise  o'  the  slaughter  roused  the  neighborhood. 
They  had  forgotten  just  the  one  thing  more  1620 

Which  saves  1 '  the  circumstance,  the  ticket  to-wit 
Which  puts  post-horses  at  a  traveller's  use : 
So,  all  on  foot,  desperate  through  the  dark 
Reeled  they  like  drunkards  along  open  road. 
Accomplished  a  prodigious  twenty  miles  1625 

Homeward,  and  gained  Baccano  very  near. 
Stumbled  at  last,  deaf,  dumb,  blind  through  the  feat, 
Into  a  grange  and,  one  dead  heap,  slept  there 
Till  the  pursuers  hard  upon  their  trace 

Reached  them  and  took  them,  red  from  head  to  heel,         1630 
And  brought  them  to  the  prison  where  they  lie. 
The  couple  were  laid  i'  the  church  two  days  ago. 
And  the  wife  lives  yet  by  miracle. 

All  is  told. 
You  hardly  need  ask  what  Count  Guido  says. 
Since  something  he  must  say.    "  I  own  the  deed — "        1635 
(He  cannot  choose,  —  but  —  )  "  I  declare  the  same 
Just  and  inevitable,  —  since  no  way  else 
Was  left  me,  but  by  this  of  taking  life. 
To  save  my  honor  which  is  more  than  life. 
I  exercised  a  husband's  rights."    To  which  1640 

The  answer  is  as  prompt  —  "  There  was  no  feiult 
In  any  one  o'  the  three  to  punish  thus : 
Neither  i'  the  wife,  who  kept  all  faith  to  you. 
Nor  in  the  parents,  whom  yourself  first  duped. 
Robbed  and  maltreated,  then  turned  out  of  doors.  1645 

You  wronged  and  they  endured  wrong ;  yours  the  &ult. 


Next,  had  endurance  overpassed  the  mark 

And  turned  resentment  needing  remedy,  — 

Nay,  put  the  absurd  impossible  case,  for  once 

You  were  all  blameless  of  the  blame  alleged  1650 

And  they  blameworthy  where  you  fix  all  blame, 

Still,  why  this  violation  of  the  law? 

Yourself  elected  law  should  take  its  course, 

Avenge  wrong,  or  show  vengeance  not  your  right ; 

Why,  only  when  the  balance  in  law^s  hand  1655 

Trembles  against  you  and  inclines  the  way 

O'  the  other  party,  do  you  make  protest. 

Renounce  arbitrament,  flying  out  of  court. 

And  oying  ^  Honor's  hurt  the  sword  must  cure '  ? 

Aha,  and  so  i*  the  middle  of  each  suit  1660 

Trying  i*  the  courts,  —  and  you  had  three  in  play 

With  an  appeal  to  the  Pope^s  self  beside,  — 

What,  you  may  chop  and  chanee  and  right  your  wrongs 

Leaving  the  law  to  lag  as  she  thinks  fit  ?  " 

That  were  too  temptingly  commodious.  Count!  1665 

One  would  have  still  a  remedy  in  reserve 

Should  reach  the  safest  oldest  sinner,  you  see ! 

One's  honor  forsooth  ?    Does  that  take  hurt  alone 

From  the  extreme  outrage  ?    I  who  have  no  wife, 

Being  yet  sensitive  in  my  degree  1670 

As  Guido,  —  must  discover  hurt  elsewhere 

Which,  half  compounded-for  in  days  gone  by. 

May  profitably  break  out  now  afresh, 

Need  cure  from  my  own  expeditious  hands. 

The  lie  that  was,  as  it  were,  imputed  me  1675 

When  you  objected  to  my  contract's  clause,  — 

The  theft  as  good  as,  one  may  say,  alleged. 

When  you,  co-heir  in  a  will,  excepted.  Sir, 

To  my  administration  of  effects, 

—  Aha,  do  you  think  law  disposed  of  these  ?  1680 

My  honor's  touched  and  shall  deal  death  around! 

Coimt,  that  were  too  commodious,  I  repeat! 

If  any  law  be  imperative  on  us  all. 

Of  all  are  you  the  enemy :  out  with  you 

From  the  common  light  and  air  and  life  of  man!  1685 




[Book  IV.  presents  the  condescending  point  of  view  of  a  critic  who  assumes  to 
be  the  mouth-piece  of  the  superior  class,  and  to  deliver  the  enlightened  and  authori- 
tative opinion  on  the  case.  Indifference  takes  the  place,  here,  of  any  special  sym- 
pathy with  either  side,  the  speaker's  only  solicitude  being  to  do  himself  credit  in 
the  eyes  of  his  distinguished  listeners,  and  to  steer  clear  of  any  prejudices  they  may 
have.  Accordingly,  both  sides  are  alternately  elaborated,  with  a  great  show  of 
cleverness,  and  the  conclusion  is  lost  in  a  mist  of  neutrality.] 

True,  Excellency  —  as  his  Highness  says, 

Though  she 's  not  dead  yet,  she 's  as  good  as  stretched 

Symmetrical  beside  the  other  two ; 

Though  he  ^s  not  judged  yet,  he  ^s  the  same  as  judged, 

So  do  the  facts  abound  and  superabound :  5 

And  nothing  hinders  that  we  lift  the  case 

Out  of  the  shade  into  the  shine,  allow 

Qualified  persons  to  pronounce  at  last, 

Nay,  edge  in  an  authoritative  word 

Between  this  rabble^s-brabble  of  dolts  and  fools  10 

Who  make  up  reasonless  unreasoning  Rome. 

"  Now  for  the  Trial! "  they  roar :  "  the  Trial  to  test 

The  truth,  weigh  husband  and  weigh  wife  alike 

r  the  scales  oflaw,  make  one  scale  kick  the  beam! " 

Law  ^s  a  machine  from  which,  to  please  the  mob,  15 

Truth  the  divinity  must  needs  descend 

And  clear  things  at  the  play's  fifth  act —  aha! 

Hammer  into  their  noddles  who  was  who 

And  what  was  what.     I  tell  the  simpletons 

'*  Could  law  be  competent  to  such  a  feat  20 

'T  were  done  already :  what  begins  next  week 

Is  end  o'  the  Trial,  last  link  of  a  chain 

Whereof  the  first  was  forged  three  years  ago 

When  law  addressed  herself  to  set  wrong  right. 

And  proved  so  slow  in  taking  the  first  step  25 

That  ever  some  new  grievance,  —  tort,  retort, 

On  one  or  the  other  side,  —  overtook  i'  the  game. 

Retarded  sentence,  till  this  deed  of  death 

Is  thrown  in,  as  it  were,  last  bale  to  boat 

Crammed  to  the  edge  with  cargo  —  or  passengers  ?  30 

*  Trecentos  inserts:  ohe^jam  satis  est  I 


Hue  appiUe  I  *  * — passengers,  the  word  must  be." 

Long  since,  the  boat  was  loaded  to  my  eyes. 

To  hear  the  rabble  and  brabble,  you^d  call  the  case 

Fused  and  confused  past  human  finding  out.  35 

One  calls  the  square  round,  t^  other  the  round  square — 

And  pardonably  in  that  first  surprise 

O^  the  blood  that  fell  and  splashed  the  diagram : 

But  now  we've  used  our  eyes  to  the  violent  hue 

Can't  we  look  through  the  crimson  and  trace  lines  ?  40 

It  makes  a  man  despair  of  history, 

Eusebius  ^  and  the  established  fact — fig's  end! 

Oh,  give  the  fools  their  Trial,  rattle  away 

With  the  leash  of  lawyers,  two  on  either  side  — 

One  barks,  one  bites,  —  Masters  Arcanj^eli  45 

And  Spreti,  —  that 's  the  husband's  ultimate  hope 

Against  the  Fisc  and  the  other  kind  of  Fisc, 

Bound  to  do  barking  for  the  wife :  bow — wow! 

Why,  Excellency,  we  and  his  Highness  here 

Would  settle  the  matter  as  sufficiently  50 

As  ever  will  Advocate  This  and  Fiscal  That 

And  Judge  the  Other,  with  even  —  a  word  and  a  wink  — 

We  well  know  who  for  ultimate  arbiter. 

Let  us  beware  o'  the  basset-table  *  —  lest 

We  jog  the  elbow  of  Her  Eminence,^  55 

Jostle  his  cards,  —  he 'U  rap  you  out  a  .  .  .  st! 

By  the  window-seat!    And  here's  the  Marquis  too! 

Indulge  me  but  a  moment :  if  I  ^ 

—  Favored  with  such  an  audience,  understand !  — 

To  set  things  right,  why,  class  me  with  the  mob  60 

As  understander  of  the  mind  of  man ! 

The  mob,  —  now,  that 's  just  how  the  error  comes ! 

Bethink  you  that  you  have  to  deal  with  plebsf 

The  commonalty ;  this  is  an  episode 

In  burgess-life, — why  seek  to  aggrandize^  65 

Idealize,  denaturalize  the  class  ? 

People  talk  just  as  if  they  had  to  do 

With  a  noble  pair 'that  .  .  .  Excellency,  your  ear! 

Stoop  to  me.  Highness,  —  listen  and  look  yourselves! 

This  Pietro,  this  Violante,  live  their  life  70 

^  Treeentot  tHttris^  etc.:  ho  there!  that  as  we  should  say, becomes  "  Sua  Eminenza." 

is  enough  now !  you  are  stowing  in  hundreds.  Browning  uses  this  idiom  occasionally  in  the 

(Horace,  "  Satires/' I.  5.  12).  present    book  {^e.g.  11.   1633,  1634),  but  not 

'  Eusebius  :  historian,  365-338.  regularly. 

*  Basset :  a  game  of  cards  fashionable  in         *  Plebs  :    the  lowest  political  division  of 

the  seventeenth  century.  the   Roman   people  —  plebeians  opposed   to 

^  Her  Eminence  :    an    imitation   of  the  the  patricians,  senators,  and  knights, 
luiian  idiom,  in  which  "His  Eminence/' 

no         THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK. 

At  Rome  in  the  easy  way  that  *8  iax  from  worst 

Even  for  their  betters,  —  themselves  love  themseiveSy 

Spend  their  own  oil  in  feeding  their  own  lamp 

That  their  own  faces  may  grow  bright  thereby. 

They  get  to  fifty  and  over :  how 's  the  lamp?  75 

Full  to  the  depth  o^  the  wick,  —  moneys  so  much ; 

And  also  with  a  remnant,  —  so  much  more 

Of  moneys,  —  which  there  ^s  no  consuming  now. 

But,  when  the  wick  shall  moulder  out  some  day^ 

Failing  fresh  twist  of  tow  to  use  up  dregs,  80 

Will  he  a  prize  for  the  passer-by,  —  to-wit 

Anyone  that  can  prove  himself  the  heir, 

Seeing,  the  couple  are  wanting  in  a  child : 

Meantime  their  wick  swims  in  the  safe  broad  bowl 

O*  the  middle  rank,  —  not  raised  a  beacon^s  height  85 

For  wind  to  ravage,  nor  dropped  till  lamp  graze  ground 

Like  cresset,  mumarks  ^  poke  now  here  now  there, 

Going  their  rounds  to  probe  the  ruts  i*  the  road 

Or  fish  the  luck  o^  the  puddle.    Pietro^s  soul 

Was  satisfied  when  cronies  smirked,  ^'  No  wine  90 

Like  Pietro's,  and  he  drinks  it  every  day! " 

His  wife^s  heart  swelled  her  boddice,  joyed  its  fill 

When  neighbors  turned  heads  wistfully  at  churchy 

Sighed  at  the  load  of  lace  that  came  to  pray. 

Well,  having  got  through  fifty  vears  of  flare,  95 

They  burn  out  so,  indulge  so  their  dear  selves. 

That  Pietro  finds  himself  in  debt  at  last. 

As  he  were  any  lordling  of  us  all : 

And,  now  that  dark  begins  to  creep  on  day, 

Creditors  grow  uneasy,  talk  aside,  100 

Take  counsel,  then  importune  all  at  once. 

For  if  the  good  fat  rosy  careless  man. 

Who  has  not  laid  a  ducat  by,  decease — 

Let  the  lamp  fall,  no  heir  at  hand  to  catch  — 

Why,  being  childless,  there  ^s  a  spilth  i^  the  street  105 

O^  the  remnant,  there  ^s  a  scramble  for  the  dregs 

By  the  stranger :  so,  they  grant  him  no  long  day 

But  come  in  a  body,  clamor*paid. 

What  *s  his  resource  ?    He  asks  and  straight  obtains 

The  customary  largess,  dole  dealt  out  no 

To,  what  we  call  our  "  poor  dear  shame-faced  ones," 

In  secret  once  a  month  to  spare  the  shame 

O'  the  slothful  and  the  spendthrift,  —  pauper-saints 

The  Pope  puts  meat  i'  the  mouth  of,  ravens  they. 

And  providence  he — just  what  the  mob  admires!  115 

^  Mudlarks  :  sewer-cleaners  and  rag-pickers. 


That  i&  instead  of  putting  a  prompt  foot 

On  selnsh  worthless  human  slugs  whose  slime 

Has  £uled  to  lubricate  their  path  in  life. 

Why,  the  Pope  picks  the  first  n^  fruit  that  falls 

And  gracious  puts  it  in  the  vermin^s  way.  I30 

Pietro  could  never  save  a  dollar?    Straight 

He  must  be  subsidized  at  our  expense : 

And  for  his  wife  —  the  harmless  household  sheep 

One  ought  not  to  see  harassed  in  her  age — 

Judge,  by  the  way  she  bore  adversity,  125 

O^  the  patient  nature  you  ask  pity  for! 

How  long,  now,  would  the  roughest  marketman, 

Handling  the  creatures  huddled  to  the  knife, 

Harass  a  mutton  ere  she  made  a  mouth 

Or  menaced  bitin|r?    Yet  the  poor  sheep  here,  130 

Violante,  the  old  innocent  burgess-wife, 

In  her  first  difficulty  showed  great  teeth 

Fit  to  crunch  up  and  swallow  a  good  round  crime. 

She  meditates  the  tenure  of  the  Trust, 

Fidei  commissum  is  the  lawyer-phrase,  135 

These  funds  that  only  want  an  heir  to  take  — 

Goes  o^er  the  gamut  o^  the  creditor's  cry 

By  semitones  from  whine  to  snarl  high  up 

And  growl  down  low,  one  scale  in  sundry  kejrs,  — 

Pauses  with  a  little  compunction  for  the  face  140 

Of  Pietro  frustrate  of  its  ancient  cheer,  — 

Never  a  bottle  now  for  friend  at  need, — 

Comes  to  a  stop  on  her  own  frittered  lace 

And  neighborly  condolences  thereat, 

Then  makes  her  mind  up,  sees  the  thing  to  do :  145 

And  so,  deliberate,  snaps  house-book  clasp, 

Posts  off  to  vespers,  missal  ^  beneath  arm. 

Passes  the  proper  San  Lorenzo  by. 

Dives  down  a  little  lane  to  the  left,  is  lost 

In  a  labyrinth  of  dwellings  best  unnamed,  150 

Selects  a  certain  blind  one,  black  at  base. 

Blinking  at  top,  —  the  sign  of  we  know  what, — 

One  candle  in  a  casement  set  to  wink 

Streetward,  do  service  to  no  shrine  inside,  — 

Mounts  thither  bv  the  filthy  flight  of  stairs,  155 

Holding  the  core!  by  the  wall,  to  the  tip-top. 

Gropes  for  the  door  i'  the  dark,  ajar  of  course, 

Raps,  opens,  enters  in :  up  starts  a  thing 

Naked  as  needs  be  —  "  What,  you  rosue,  't  is  you? 

Back,  —  how  can  I  have  taken  a  farthmg  yet  ?  160 

Mercy  on  me,  poor  sinner  that  I  am! 

^  MUtal:  book  of  the  mass,  Roman  Catholic  prayer-book. 


Here  ^s  .  .  .  whv,  I  took  you  for  Madonna^s  self 

With  aU  that  sudden  swirl  of  silk  i*  the  f^ace! 

What  may  your  pleasure  be,  my  bonny  dame?^ 

Your  Excellency  supplies  aught  left  obscure?  165 

One  of  those  women  that  abound  in  Rome, 

Whose  needs  oblige  them  eke  out  one  poor  trade 

By  another  vile  one :  her  ostensible  work 

Was  washing  clothes,  out  in  the  open  air 

At  the  cistern  by  Citorio ;  her  true  trade —  170 

Whispering  to  idlers,  when  they  stopped  and  praised 

The  ankles  she  let  liberally  shine 

In  kneeling  at  the  slab  by  the  fountain-side, 

That  there  was  plenty  more  to  criticise 

At  home,  that  eve,  i^  the  house  where  candle  blinked  175 

Decorously  above,  and  all  was  done 

V  the  holy  fear  of  God  and  cheap  beside. 

Violante,  now,  had  seen  this  woman  wash, 

Noticed  and  envied  her  propitious  shape. 

Tracked  her  home  to  her  house-top,  noted  too^  180 

And  now  was  come  to  tempt  her  and  propose 

A  bargain  far  more  shameful  than  the  first 

Which  trafficked  her  virginity  away 

For  a  melon  and  three  pauls  ^  at  twelve  years  old. 

Five  minutes^  talk  with  this  poor  child  of  Eve,  185 

Struck  was  the  bargain,  business  at  an  end  — 

^^  Then,  six  months  hence,  that  person  whom  you  trust, 

Comes,  fetches  whatsoever  babe  it  be ; 

I  keep  the  price  and  secret,  you  the  babe. 

Paying  beside  for  mass  to  make  all  straight :  190 

Meantime,  I  pouch  the  earnest-money-piece.** 

Down  stairs  again  goes  fumbline  by  the  rope 

Violante,  triumphing  in  a  flourish  of  fire 

From  her  own  brain,  self-lit  by  such  success, — 

Gains  church  in  time  for  the  ^^ Magnificat'*'*  195 

And  gives  forth  "  My  reproof  is  tsucen  away, 

And  blessed  shall  mankmd  proclaim  me  now,** 

So  that  the  officiating  priest  turns  round 

To  see  who  proffers  the  obstreperous  praise : 

Then  home  to  Pietro,  the  enraptured-much  200 

But  puzzled-more  when  told  the  wondrous  news  — 

How  orisons  and  works  of  charity, 

(Beside  that  pair  of  pinners  ^  and  a  coif,* 

Birth-day  surprise  last  Wednesday  was  five  weeks) 

Had  borne  fruit  in  the  autumn  of  his  life, —  205 

^  Pauls :   Italian  silver  coins  worth  about         '  Pinners  :  lappets  of  a  head-dress, 
ten  cents  each.  *  Ccif:  a  cap. 

TERT/l/M  QUID.  113 

They,  or  the  Orvieto^  in  a  double  dose. 

Anyhow,  she  must  keep  house  next  six  months. 

Lie  on  the  settle,  avoid  the  three-legged  stool, 

And,  chiefly,  not  be  crossed  in  wish  or  whim, 

And  the  result  was  like  to  be  an  heir.  210 

Accordingly,  when  time  was  come  about, 

He  found  himself  the  sire  indeed  of  this 

Francesca  Vittoria  Pompilia  and  the  rest 

O^  the  names  whereby  he  sealed  her  his,  next  day. 

A  crime  complete  in  its  way  is  here,  I  hope?  215 

Lies  to  God,  lies  to  man,  every  way  lies 

To  nature  and  civility  and  the  mode : 

Flat  robbery  of  the  proper  heirs  thus  foiled 

O'  the  due  succession,  —  and,  what  followed  thence, 

Robbery  of  God,  through  the  confessor^s  ear  220 

Debarred  the  most  note-worthy  incident 

When  all  else  done  and  undone  twelve-month  through 

Was  put  in  evidence  at  £aster-time. 

All  other  peccadillos !  —  but  this  one 

To  the  pnest  who  comes  next  day  to  dine  with  us?  225 

'T  were  inexpedient ;  decency  forbade. 

Is  so  far  clear?    You  know  Violante  now, 

Compute  her  capability  of  crime 

By  this  authentic  instance?    Black  hard  cold 

Crime  like  a  stone  you  kick  up  with  your  foot  230 

r  the  middle  of  a  field? 

I  thought  as  much. 
But  now,  a  question,  —  how  long  does  it  lie. 
The  bad  and  barren  bit  of  stuff  you  kick. 
Before  encroached  on  and  encompassed  round 
With  minute  moss,  weed,  wild-flower  —  made  alive  235 

By  worm,  and  fly,  and  foot  of  the  free  bird  ? 
Your  Highness,  —  healthy  minds  let  bygones  be. 
Leave  old  crimes  to  grow  young  and  virtuous-like 
r  the  sun  and  air ;  so  time  treats  ugly  deeds : 
They  take  the  natural  blessing  of  all  change.  240 

There  was  the  joy  o'  the  husband  silly-sooth. 
The  softening  of  the  wife's  old  wicked  heart. 
Virtues  to  right  and  left,  profusely  paid 
If  so  they  might  compensate  the  saved  sin. 
And  then  the  sudden  existence,  dewy-dear,  245 

O'  the  rose  above  the  dungheap,  the  pure  child 
As  good  as  new  created,  since  withdrawn 

1  Orvieto  :  probably  a  medicine  of  Ferrante,  a  celebrated  charlatan  who  lived  In  Orvieto. 


From  the  horror  of  the  pre-appointed  lot 

With  the  unknown  father  and  the  mother  known 

Too  well,  —  some  fourteen  years  of  squalid  youth^  2C0 

And  then  libertinage,  disease,  the  grave  — 

Hell  in  life  here,  hereafter  life  in  hell : 

Look  at  that  horror  and  this  soft  repose! 

Why,  moralist,  the  sin  has  saved  a  soul! 

Then,  even  the  palpable  grievance  to  the  heirs  —  255 

Taith,  this  was  no  frank  setting  hand  to  throat 

And  robbing  a  man,  but  .  .  .  Excellency,  by  your  leave, 

How  did  vou  get  that  marvel  of  a  gem. 

The  sappnire  with  the  Graces  grand  and  Greek? 

The  story  is,  stooping  to  pick  a  stone  260 

From  the  pathway  through  a  vineyard  —  no-man's-land  — 

To  pelt  a  sparrow  with,  you  chanced  on  this : 

Whv  now,  do  those  five  clowns  o^  the  family 

O'  tne  vinedresser  digest  their  porridge  worse 

That  not  one  keeps  it  in  his  goatskin  pouch  265 

To  do  flint's  service  with  the  tinder-box? 

DonH  cheat  me,  donH  cheat  you,  donH  cheat  a  firiend. 

But  are  you  so  hard  on  who  jostles  just 

A  straneer  with  no  natural  sort  of  claim 

To  the  havings  and  the  holdings  (here  ^s  the  point)  270 

Unless  by  misadventure,  and  defect 

Of  that  which  ought  to  be  —  nay,  which  there  's  none 

Would  dare  so  much  as  wish  to  profit  by — 

Since  who  dares  put  in  just  so  many  words 

"May  Pietro  fail  to  have  a  child,  please  God!  275 

So  shall  his  house  and  goods  belone  to  me. 

The  sooner  that  his  heart  will  pine  oetimes"? 

Well  then,  God  doesnH  please,  nor  heart  shall  pine! 

Because  he  has  a  child  at  last,  you  see. 

Or  selfeame  thing  as  though  a  child  it  were,  280 

He  thinks,  whose  sole  concern  it  is  to  thii^ : 

If  he  accepts  it  why  should  you  demur? 

Moreover,  say  that  certain  sin  there  seem. 

The  proper  process  of  unsinning  sin 

Is  to  begin  well-doing  somehow  else.  285 

Pietro,  —  remember,  with  no  sin  at  all 

r  the  substitution,  —  why,  this  gift  of  God 

Flung  in  his  lap  from  over  Paradise 

Steadied  him  a  moment,  set  him  straight 

On  the  good  path  he  had  been  straying  from.  290 

Henceforward  no  more  wilfulness  and  waste, 

Cuppings,  carousings,  —  these  a  sponge  wiped  out. 

All  sort  of  self-denial  was  easy  now 

For  the  child's  sake,  the  chatelaine  to  be, 


Who  must  want  much  and  might  want  who  knows  what?       295 

And  so,  the  debts  were  paid,  habits  reformed, 

Expense  curtailed,  the  dowry  set  to  grow. 

As  for  the  wife,  —  I  said,  hers  the  whole  sin : 

So,  hers  the  exemplary  penance.    T  was  a  text 

Whereon  folk  preached  and  praised,  the  district  through :      300 

<<Oh,  make  us  happy  and  you  make  us  good! 

It  all  comes  of  God  giving  her  a  child : 

Such  graces  follow  God^s  oest  earthly  gift! " 

Here  you  put  by  my  guard,  pass  to  my  heart 

By  the  home-thrust  —  ^  There  ^s  a  lie  at  base  of  all  305 

Why,  thou  exact  Prince,  is  it  a  pearl  or  no, 

Yon  globe  upon  the  Principessa's  neck? 

That  great  round  glory  of  pellucid  stufl^ 

A  fish  secreted  round  a  grain  of  grit! 

Do  you  call  it  worthless  for  the  worthless  core?  310 

(She  doesn%  who  well  knows  what  she  chang^  for  it.) 

So,  to  our  brace  of  burgesses  again! 

You  see  so  far  i^  the  story,  who  was  right. 

Who  wrong,  who  neither,  donH  you?    What,  you  donH? 

£h?    Well,  admit  there  ^s  somewhat  dark  i^  the  case,  315 

Let 's  on — the  rest  shall  clear,  I  promise  you. 

Leap  over  a  dozen  years :  vou  find,  these  past, 

An  old  good  eas3r  creditable  sire, 

A  carefm  housewife^s  beaming  bustling  face. 

Both  wrapped  up  in  the  love  of  their  one  child,  320 

The  strange  tall  pale  beautiful  creature  grown 

Lily-like  out  o*  the  cleft  i^  the  sun-smit  rock 

To  bow  its  white  miraculous  birth  of  buds 

r  the  way  of  wandering  Joseph  and  his  spouse,  — 

So  painters  £mcv :  here  it  was  a  iaxX.  325 

And  this  their  lily, — could  thev  but  transplant 

And  set  in' vase  to  stand  by  Solomon^s  porch 

Twixtlion  and  lion!  —  this  Pompilia  ot  theirs. 

Could  they  see  worthily  married,  well  bestowed. 

In  house  and  home!    And  why  despair  of  this  330 

With  Rome  to  choose  from,  save  the  topmost  rank? 

Themselves  would  help  the  choice  with  heart  and  soul. 

Throw  their  late  savings  in  a  common  heap 

To  go  with  the  dowry,  and  be  followed  in  time 

By  the  heritage  legitimately  hers :  335 

And  when  such  paragon  was  found  and  fixed. 

Why,  they  might  chant  their  ^^Nunc  dimittis  "*  skaight 

Indeed  the  prize  was  simply  full  to  a  £ciult, 
s  Nunc  dimUiit :  **  Now  lettest  thou  thy  servant  depart  in  peace,"  etc.,  Luke  il  aa. 


Exorbitant  for  the  suitor  they  should  seek, 

And  social  class  should  choose  amone,  these  dts.^  340 

Yet  there 's  a  latitude :  exceptional  white 

Amid  the  general  brown  o*  the  species,  lurks 

A  burgess  nearly  an  aristocrat, 

Legitimately  in  reach :  look  out  for  him! 

What  banker,  merchant,  has  seen  better  daysy  345 

What  second-rate  painter  a-pushing  up. 

Poet  a-slipping  down,  shall  bid  the  best 

For  this  young  beauty  with  the  thumping  purse? 

Alack,  were  it  but  one  of  such  as  these 

So  like  the  real  thing  that  they  pass  for  it,  350 

All  had  gone  well !    Unluckily,  poor  souls, 

It  proved  to  be  the  impossible  thing  itself. 

Truth  and  not  sham :  hence  ruin  to  them  all. 

For,  Guido  Franceschini  was  the  head 

Of  an- old  family  in  Arezzo,  old  355 

To  that  degree  they  could  afford  be  poor 

Better  than  most :  the  case  is  common  too. 

Out  of  the  vast  door  ^scutcheoned  overhead, 

Creeps  out  a  serving-man  on  Saturdays 

To  cater  for  the  week,  —  turns  up  anon  360 

r  the  market,  chaffering  for  the  Iambus  least  leg. 

Or  the  quarter-fowl,  less  entrails,  claws  and  comb 

Then  back  again  with  prize, — a  liver  begged 

Into  the  bargain,  gizzard  overlooked. 

He 's  mincing  these  to  give  the  beans  a  taste,  365 

When,  at  your  knock,  he  leaves  the  simmering  soup, 

Waits  on  the  curious  stranger-visitant. 

Napkin  in  half-wiped  hand,  to  show  the  rooms. 

Point  pictures  out  have  hung  their  hundred  years, 

"  Priceless,"  he  tells  you,  —  puts  in  his  place  at  once  370 

The  man  of  money :  yes,  you  're  banker-king 

Or  merchant-kaiser,  wallow  in  your  wealth 

While  patron,  the  house-master,  can't  afford 

To  stop  our  ceiling-hole  that  rain  so  rots : 

But  he  's  the  man  of  mark,  and  there  's  his  shield,  375 

And  yonder  's  the  famed  Rafael,  first  in  kind. 

The  painter  painted  for  his  grandfather, 

And  you  have  paid  to  see :  "  Good  morning,  Sir! " 

Such  is  the  law  of  compensation.     Still 

The  poverty  was  getting  nigh  acute ;  380 

There  gaped  so  many  noble  mouths  to  feed. 

Beans  must  suffice  unflavored  of  the  fowl. 

The  mother,  —  hers  would  be  a  spun-out  life 

^  CiU  :  abbreviation  of  citixeas. 

TEkTiVM  QUID.  117 

r  the  nature  of  things ;  the  sisters  had  done  well 

And  married  men  of  reasonable  rank :  385 

But  that  sort  of  illumination  stops^ 

Throws  back  no  heat  upon  the  parent-hearth. 

The  family  instinct  felt  out  for  its  fire 

To  the  Church,  —  the  Church  traditionally  helps 

A  second  son :  and  such  was  Paolo,  390 

Established  here  at  Rome  these  thirty  years, 

Who  played  the  regular  game,  —  priest  and  Abate, 

Made  friends,  owned  house  and  land,  became  of  use 

To  a  personage :  his  course  lay  clear  enough. 

The  youngest  caught  the  sympathetic  flame,  395 

And,  though  unfledged  wings  kept  him  still  i^  the  cage, 

Yet  he  shot  up  to  be  a  Canon,  so 

Clung  to  the  higher  perch  and  crowed  in  hope. 

Even  our  Guido,  eldest  brother,  went 

As  far  i'  the  way  o^  the  Church  as  safety  seemed,  400 

He  being  Head  o'  the  House,  ordained  to  wive, — 

So,  could  but  dally  with  an  Order  or  two 

And  testify  good-will  i^  the  cause :  he  clipped 

His  top-hair  and  thus  far  affected  Christ. 

But  main  promotion  must  fa\\  otherwise,  405 

Though  still  from  the  side  o^  the  Church  :  and  here  was  he 

At  Rome,  since  first  youth,  worn  threadbare  of  soul 

By  forty-six  years'  rubbing  on  hard  life. 

Getting  fast  tired  o'  the  game  whose  word  is  —  "Wait! 

When  one  day,  —  he  too  having  his  Cardinal  410 

To  serve  in  some  ambiguous  sort,  as  serve 

To  draw  the  coach  the  plumes  o'  the  horses'  heads,  — 

The  Cardinal  saw  fit  to  dispense  with  him, 

Ride  with  one  plume  the  less ;  and  off  it  dropped. 

Guido  thus  left,  —  with  a  youth  spent  in  vain  415 

And  not  a  penny  in  purse  to  show  for  it,  — 

Advised  with  Paolo,  bent  no  doubt  in  chafe 

The  black  brows  somewhat  formidably,  growled 

"  Where  is  the  good  I  came  to  get  at  Rome  ? 

Where  the  repa5rment  of  the  servitude  420 

To  a  purple  popinjay,  whose  feet  I  kiss. 

Knowing  his  father  wiped  the  shoes  of  mine?" 

"  Patience,"  pats  Paolo  the  recalcitrant  — 

"  You  have  not  had,  so  far,  the  proper  luck. 

Nor  do  my  gains  suffice  to  keep  us  both  :  425 

A  modest  competency  is  mine,  not  more. 

You  are  the  Count  however,  yours  the  style, 

Heirdom  and  state,  —  you  canH  expect  all  good. 

Had  I,  now,  held  your  hand  of  cards  .  .  .  well,  well  — 

What 's  yet  unplayed,  1  '11  look  at,  by  your  leave,  430 

Ii8  THE  RIl^G  AI^D  THE  BOOK. 

Over  your  shoulder,  —  I  who  made  my  game, 

Let  ^s  see,  if  I  can^  help  to  handle  yours. 

Fie  on  you,  all  the  Honors  in  your  fist, 

Countship,  Househeadship,  —  how  have  you  misdealt! 

Why,  in  the  first  place,  these  will  marry  a  man!  435 

Notum  tansoribus  I  ^    To  the  Tonsor  ^  then ! 

Come,  clear  your  looks,  and  choose  your  freshest  suit. 

And,  after  function  ^s  done  with',  down  we  go 

To  the  woman-dealer  in  perukes,  a  wench 

I  and  some  others  settled  in  the  shop  440 

At  Place  Colonna :  she  ^s  an  oracle.    Hmm! 

*  Dear,  H  is  my  brother :  brother,  't  is  my  dear. 

Dear,  give  us  counsel !    Whom  do  you  suggest 

As  properest  party  in  the  quarter  round 

For  the  Count  here?  —  he  is  minded  to  take  wife,  445 

And  further  tells  me  he  intends  to  slip 

Twenty  zecchines  •  under  the  bottom-scalp 

Of  his  old  wi^  when  he  sends  it  to  revive 

For  the  weddmg :  and  I  add  a  trifle  too. 

You  know  what  personage  I  'm  potent  with.' "  450 

And  so  plumped  out  Pompilia^s  name  the  first. 

She  told  them  of  the  household  and  its  ways, 

The  easy  husband  and  the  shrewder  wife 

In  Via  Vittoria,  —  how  the  tall  young  girl, 

With  hair  black  as  yon  patch  and  eyes  as  big  455 

As  yon  pomander  *  to  make  freckles  fly. 

Would  have  so  much  for  certain,  and  so  much  more 

In  likelihood,  — why,  it  suited,  slipped  as  smooth 

As  the  Pope's  pantoufle  *  does  on  the  Pope's  foot. 

'^  I  '11  to  the  husband!  "  Guido  ups  and  cries.  460 

"  Ay,  so  you  'd  play  your  last  court-card,  no  doubt! " 

Puts  Paolo  in  with  a  groan  —  "  Only,  you  see, 

'T  is  I,  this  time,  that  supervise  your  lead. 

Priests  play  with  women,  maids,  wives,  mothers  —  why? 

These  play  with  men  and  take  them  off  our  hands.  465 

Did  I  come,  counsel  with  some  cut-beard  gruff 

Or  rather  this  sleek  young-old  barberess  ? 

Go,  brother,  stand  you  rapt  in  the  ante-room 

Of  Her  Efficacity  •  my  Cardinal 

For  an  hour, —  he  likes  to  have  lord-suitors  lounge, —         470 

While  I  betake  myself  to  the  gray  mare. 

The  better  horse,  —  how  wise  the  people's  word!  — 

>  Notum  ioHsort'ius  :  "  known  to  the  bar-         *  Pomander  :    a  ball  of  pomade  for  the 

bers."    See  note,  II.  114.  skin. 

*  Tonsor:  barber.  ^Pantoufle  :  slipper. 

*  Zecchines  :  sequins,  coins  worth  about         ^  Her  Ejfficacity  :    similar  idiom  to  that 
$a.a5  each.  referred  to  in  line  55. 


And  wait  on  Madam  Violante.** 

Said  and  done. 
He  was  at  Via  Vittoria  in  three  skips : 

Proposed  at  once  to  fill  up  the  one  want  475 

O'  the  burgess-family  which,  wealthy  enough, 
And  comfortable  to  hearths  desire,  yet  crouched 
Outside  a  gate  to  heaven,  —  locked,  bolted,  barred, 
Whereof  Count  Guido  had  a  key  he  kept 
Under  his  pillow,  but  Pompilia^s  hand  480 

Might  slide  behind  his  neck  and  pilfer  thence. 
The  key  was  fairy ;  its  mere  mention  made 
Violante  feel  the  thing  shoot  one  sharp  ray 
That  reached  the  womanly  heart :  so  —  "I  assent! 
Yours  be  Pompilia,  hers  and  ours  that  key  485 

To  all  the  glories  of  the  greater  life! 
There 's  Pietro  to  convince :  leave  that  to  me! " 

Then  was  the  matter  broached  to  Pietro ;  then 

Did  Pietro  make  demand  and  get  response 

That  in  the  Countship  was  a  truth,  but  in  490 

The  counting  up  of  the  Count^s  cash,  a  lie. 

He  thereupon  stroked  grave  his  chin,  looked  great, 

Declined  the  honor.    Then  the  wife  wiped  tear. 

Winked  with  the  other  eye  turned  Paolo-ward, 

Whispered  Pompilia,  stole  to  church  at  eve,  495 

Found  Guido  there  and  got  the  marriage  done, 

And  finally  begged  pardon  at  the  feet 

Of  her  dear  lord  and  master.    Whereupon 

Quoth  Pietro —  "  Let  us  make  the  best  of  things! " 

"  I  knew  your  love  would  license  us,"  quoth  she :  500 

Quoth  Paolo  once  more,  ^^  Mothers,  wives  and  maids, 

These  be  the  tools  wherewith  priests  manage  men." 

Now,  here  take  breath  and  ask,  —  which  bird  o^  the  brace 
^Decoyed  the  other  into  clapnet  ?    Who 
Was  fool,  who  knave?    Neither  and  both,  perchance.         505 
There  was  a  bargain  mentally  proposed 
On  each  side,  straight  and  plain  and  £air  enough ; 
Mind  knew  its  own  mind :  but  when  mind  must  speak. 
The  bargain  have  expression  in  plain  terms. 
There  came  the  blunder  incident  to  words,  510 

And  in  the  clumsy  process,  fair  turned  foul. 
The  straight  backbone-thought  of  the  crooked  speech 
Were  just  —  "I  Guido  truck  my  name  and  rank 
For  so  much  money  and  youth  and  female  charms.  — 
We  Pietro  and  Violante  give  our  child  515 

And  wealth  to  you  for  a  rise  i'  the  world  thereby." 
Such  naked  truth  while  chambered  in  the  brain 


Shocks  nowise :  walk  it  forth  by  way  of  tonguey-^ 

Out  on  the  cvnical  unseemliness! 

Hence  was  the  need,  on  either  side,  of  a  lie  520 

To  serve  as  decent  wrappage :  so,  Guido  gives 

Money  for  money,  —  and  they,  bride  for  groom, 

Having,  he,  not  a  doit,  they,  not  a  child 

Honesdy  theirs,  but  this  poor  waif  and  stray. 

According  to  the  words,  each  cheated  each ;  525 

But  in  the  inexpressive  barter  of  thoughts. 

Each  did  give  and  did  take  the  thing  designedy 

The  rank  on  this  side  and  the  cash  on  that  -^ 

Attained  the  object  of  the  traffic,  so. 

The  way  of  the  world,  the  daily  bargain  struck  530 

In  the  nrst  market!    Why  sells  Jack  his  ware? 

**  For  the  sake  of  serving  an  old  customer." 

Why  does  Jill  buy  it  ?    "  Simply  not  to  break 

A  custom,  pass  the  old  stall  the  first  time." 

Why,  you  know  where  the  gist  is  of  the  exchange:  53s 

Each  sees  a  profit,  throws  the  fine  words  in. 

Don't  be  too  hard  o'  the  pair!     Had  each  pretence 

Been  simultaneously  discovered,  stript 

From  off  the  body  o'  the  transaction,  just 

As  when  a  cook  (will  Excellency  forgive  ?)  540 

Strips  away  those  long  rough  superfluous  legs 

From  either  side  the  crayfish,  leaving  folk 

A  meal  all  meat  henceforth,  no  garnishry, 

(With  your  respect,  Prince!)  —  balance  nad  been  kept. 

No  party  blamed  the  other,  —  so,  starting  fair,  545 

All  subsequent  fence  of  wrong  returned  by  wrong 

r  the  matrimonial  thrust  and  parry,  at  least 

Had  followed  on  equal  terms.     But,  as  it  chanced, 

One  party  had  the  advantage,  saw  the  cheat 

Of  the  other  first  and  kept  its  own  concealed :  550 

And  the  luck  o'  the  first  discovery  fell,  beside, 

To  the  least  adroit  and  self-possessed  o'  the  pair. 

'T  was  foolish  Pietro  and  his  wife  saw  first 

The  nobleman  was  penniless,  and  screamed 

"  We  are  cheated! " 

Such  unprofitable  noise  555 

Angers  at  all  times :  but  when  those  who  plague, 
Do  it  from  inside  your  own  house  and  home. 
Gnats  which  yourself  have  closed  the  curtain  round. 
Noise  goes  too  near  the  brain  and  makes  you  mad. 
The  gnats  say,  Guido  used  the  candle-flame  560 

Unfairly,  —  worsened  that  first  bad  of  his, 
By  practising  all  kinds  of  cruelty 
To  oust  them  and  suppress  the  wail  and  whine, 


That  speedily  he  so  scared  and  bullied  them. 

Fain  were  they,  long  before  five  months  had  passed,  565 

To  beg  him  grant,  m>m  what  was  once  their  wealth, 

Just  so  much  as  would  help  them  back  to  Rome 

Where,  when  they  finished  paying  the  last  doit 

O'  the  dowry,  they  might  beg  from  door  to  door. 

So  say  the  Comparini  —  as  if  it  came  570 

Of  pure  resentment  for  this  worse  than  bad. 

That  then  Violante,  feeling  conscience  prick,  * 

Confessed  her  substitution  of  the  child 

Whence  all  the  harm  came,  —  and  that  Pietro  first 

Bethought  him  of  advantage  to  himself  575 

P  the  deed,  as  part  revenge,  part  remedy 

For  all  DiuBcalculation  in  the  pact. 

On  the  other  hand  "  Not  sol ''  Guido  retorts  — 
^'  I  am  the  wron^d,  solely,  fix)m  first  to  last, 
Who  gave  the  dignity  I  engaged  to  give,  580 

Which  was,  iS)  cannot  but  continue  gain. 
My  beinff  poor  was  a  bye-circumstance, 
Miscalcmated  piece  of  untowardness. 
Might  end  to-morrow  did  heaven's  windows  ope, 
Or  uncle  die  and  leave  me  his  estate.  585 

You  should  have  put  up  with  the  minor  flaw, 
Getting  the  main  prize  of  the  jewel.     If  wealth. 
Not  rank,  had  been  prime  object  in  your  thoughts. 
Why  not  have  taken  the  butcher's  son,  the  boy 
O'  the  baker  or  candlestick-maker  P    In  all  the  rest,  590 

It  was  yourselves  broke  compact  and  played  false. 
And  made  a  life  in  common  impossible. 
Show  me  the  stipulation  of  our  bond 
That  you  should  make  your  profit  of  being  inside 
My  house,  to  hustle  and  edge  me  out  o'  the  same,  595 

•First  make  a  laughing-stock  of  mine  and  me, 
Then  round  us  in  the  ears  fi-om  mom  to  night 
(Because  we  show  wry  feces  at  your  mirth) 
That  you  are  robbed,  starved,  beaten  and  what  not! 
You  fled  a  hell  of  your  own  lighting-up,  600 

Pay  for  your  own  miscalculation  too  : 
You  thought  nobility,  gained  at  any  price, 
Would  suit  and  satisfy,  —  find  the  mistake. 
And  now  retaliate,  not  on  yourselves,  but  me. 
And  how?    By  telling  me,  i'  the  face  of  the  world,  605 

I  it  is  have  been  cheated  all  this  while, 
Abominably  and  irreparably,  —  my  name 
Given  to  a  cur-cast  mongrel,  a  drab's  brat, 
A  beffgar's  bye-blow,  —  thus  depriving  me 
Of  what  yourselves  allege  the  whole  and  sole  610 


Aim  on  my  part  T  the  marriage,  —  money  to-wit. 

This  thrust  I  have  to  parry  by  a  gnard 

Which  leaves  me  open  to  a  counter-thrust 

On  the  other  side,  —  no  way  but  there  *s  a  pass 

Clean  through  me.    If  I  prove,  as  I  hope  to  do^  615 

There  ^s  not  one  truth  in  this  your  odious  tale 

O^  the  buying,  selling,  substituting — prove 

Your  daughter  was  and  is  your  daughter, — well, 

And  her  dowry  hers  and  therefore  mine,  —  what  then? 

Why,  where  ^s  the  appropriate  punishment  for  this  620 

Enormous  lie  hatched  for  mere  malice'  sake 

To  ruin  me?    Is  that  a  wrong  or  no? 

And  if  I  try  revenge  for  remedy. 

Can  I  well  make  it  strong  and  bitter  enough?^ 

I  anticipate  however — only  ask,  625 

Which  of  the  two  here  sinned  most?    A  nice  point! 
Which  brownness  is  least  black,  —  decide  who  can, 
Waeer-by-battle-of-ch eating!    What  do  you  say, 
Highness  ?    Suppose,  your  Excellency,  we  leave 
The  question  at  this  stage,  proceed  to  the  next,  630 

Both  parties  step  out,  fight  their  prize  upon. 
In  the  eye  o'  the  world? 

They  brandish  law  'sainst  law ; 
The  grinding  of  such  blades,  each  parry  of  ea(£. 
Throws  terrible  sparks  off,  over  and  above  the  thrusts, 
And  makes  more  sinister  the  fight,  to  the  eye,  635 

Than  the  very  wounds  that  follow.    Beside  the  tale 
Which  the  Comparini  have  to  re-assert, 
They  needs  must  write,  print,  publish  all  abroad 
The  straitnesses  of  Guidons  household  life — 
The  petty  nothings  we  bear  privately  640 

But  break  down  under  when  fools  flock  to  jeer. 
What  is  it  all  to  the  facts  o^  the  couplers  case, 
How  helps  it  prove  Pompilia  not  their  child, 
If  Guidons  mother,  brother,  kith  and  kin 
Fare  ill,  lie  hard,  lack  clothes,  lack  fire,  lack  food?  645 

That 's  one  more  wrong  than  needs. 

On  the  other  hand, 
Guido,  —  whose  cue  is  to  dispute  the  truth 
O'  the  tale,  reject  the  shame  it  throws  on  him,  — 
He  may  retaliate,  fieht  his  foe  in  turn 

And  welcome,  we  allow.    Ay,  but  he  canH!  650 

He  ^  at  home,  only  acts  by  prox}*  here : 
Law  may  meet  law,  —  but  all  the  gibes  and  jeers. 
The  superfluity  of  naughtiness. 
Those  lil>cls  on  his  House, —  how  reach  at  them? 
Two  hateful  £aces,  grinning  all  a-glow,  655 


Not  only  make  parade  of  spoil  they  filched, 

But  foul  him  from  the  height  of  a  tower,  you  see. 

Unluckily  temptation  is  at  hand  — 

To  take  revenge  on  a  trifle  overlooked, 

A  pet  lamb  they  have  left  in  reach  outside,  660 

Whose  first  bleat,  when  he  plucks  the  wool  away, 

Will  strike  the  grinners  grave :  his  wife  remains 

Who,  four  months  earlier,  some  thirteen  years  old, 

Never  a  mile  away  from  mother^s  house 

And  petted  to  the  height  of  her  desire,  665 

Was  told  one  morning  that  her  fate  had  come. 

She  must  be  married — just  as,  a  month  before, 

Her  mother  told  her  she  must  comb  her  hair 

And  twist  her  curls  into  one  knot  behind. 

These  fools  forgot  their  pet  lamb,  fed  with  flowersi  670 

Then  Hiced  as  usual  by  the  bit  of  cake, 

Out  of  the  bower  into  the  butchery. 

Plague  her,  he  plagues  them  threefold :  but  how  plague? 

The  world  may  have  its  word  to  say  to  that : 

You  can^t  do  some  things  with  impunity.  675 

What  remains  .  .  .  weU,  it  is  an  u^ly  thought  .  .  . 

But  that  he  drive  herself  to  plague  herself — 

Herself  disgrace  herself  and  so  disgrace 

Who  seek  to  disgrace  Guido? 

There  's  the  due 
To  what  else  seems  ^tuitously  vile,  680 

If,  as  is  said,  from  this  time  forth  the  rack 
Was  tried  upon  Pompilia :  \  was  to  wrench 
Her  limbs  into  exposure  that  brings  shame. 
The  aim  o'  the  cruelty  being  so  crueller  still, 
That  cruelty  almost  grows  compassion^s  self  685 

Could  one  attribute  it  to  mere  return 
O'  the  parents'  outrage,  wrong  avenging  wrong. 
They  see  in  this  a  deeper  deadlier  aim. 
Not  to  vex  just  a  body  they  held  dear. 

But  blacken  too  a  soul  they  boasted  white,  690 

And  show  the  world  their  saint  in  a  lover's  arms, 
No  matter  how  driven  thither,  —  so  they  say. 

On  the  other  hand,  so  much  is  easily  said. 

And  Guido  lacks  not  an  apologist. 

The  pair  had  nobody  but  themselves  to  blame,  695 

Being  selfish  beasts  throughout,  no  less,  no  more : 

—  Cared  for  themselves,  their  supposed  good,  nought  else, 

And  brought  about  the  marriage ;  good  proved  bad. 

As  little  they  cared  for  her  its  victim  —  nay. 

Meant  she  snould  stay  behind  and  take  the  chance,  700 


If  haply  they  mip;ht  wriggle  themselves  free« 

Thev  baited  their  own  hook  to  catch  a  fish 

With  this  poor  worm,  failed  o^  the  prises  and  then 

Sought  how  to  unbait  tackle,  let  worm  float 

Or  sink,  amuse  the  monster  while  they  ^scapod.  705 

Under  the  best  stars  Hymen  brings  aDOve, 

Had  all  been  honesty  on  either  side, 

A  common  sincere  effort  to  good  end, 

Still,  this  would  prove  a  difficult  problem,  Prince  I 

—  Given,  a  fair  wife,  aged  thirteen  years,  710 
A  husband  poor,  care-bitten,  sorrow-sunk. 

Little,  long-nosed,  bush-bearded,  lantern-jawed, 

Forty-six  years  old,  —  place  the  two  grown  one, 

She,  cut  off  sheer  from  every  natural  aid. 

In  a  strange  town  with  no  familiar  face —  71S 

He,  in  his  own  parade-ground  or  retreat 

If  need  were,  free  from  challenge,  much  less  check 

To  an  irritated,  disappointed  will  — 

How  evolve  happiness  from  such  a  match? 

T  were  hard  to  serve  up  a  congenial  dish  720 

Out  of  these  ill-agreeing  morsels,  Duke, 

By  the  best  exercise  of  the  cook^s  craft, 

Best  interspersion  of  spice,  salt  and  sweet! 

But  let  two  ghastly  scullions  concoct  mess 

With  brimstone,  pitch,  vitriol  and  deviPs-dung  * —  725 

Throw  in  abuse  o'  the  man,  his  body  and  souX 

Kith,  kin  and  generation  shake  all  slab 

At  Rome,  Arezzo,  for  the  world  to  nose. 

Then  end  by  publishing,  for  fiend's  arch-prank, 

That,  over  and  above  sauce  to  the  meat's  self,  730 

Why,  even  the  meat,  bedevilled  thus  in  dish. 

Was  never  a  pheasant  but  a  carrion-crow  — 

Prince,  what  will  then  the  natural  loathing  be? 

What  wonder  if  this  ?  —  the  compound  plague  o'  the  pair 

Pricked  Guido, —  not  to  take  the  course  they  hoped,  735 

That  is,  submit  him  to  their  statement's  truth, 

Accept  its  obvious  promise  of  relief, 

And  thrust  them  out  of  doors  the  girl  again 

Since  the  girPs  dowry  would  not  enter  there, 

—  Quit  of  the  one  if  baulked  of  the  other :  no!  740 
Rather  did  rage  and  hate  so  work  in  him. 

Their  product  proved  the  horrible  conceit 

That  he  should  plot  and  plan  and  bring  to  pass 

His  wife  might,  of  her  own  free  will  and  deed, 

Relieve  him  of  her  presence,  get  her  gone,  745 

And  yet  leave  all  the  dowry  safe  behind, 

^  DeviTs-dung:  assafoetida,  a  vile  smelling  drug. 


Confirmed  his  own  henceforward  past  dispute^ 
While  blotting  out,  as  by  a  belch  of  hell, 
Their  triumph  in  her  misery  and  death. 

You  see,  the  man  was  Aretine,  had  touch  750 

O'  the  subtle  air  that  breeds  the  subtle  wit ; 

Was  noble  too,  of  old  blood  thrice-refined 

That  shrinks  firom  clownish  coarseness  in  disgust : 

Allow  that  such  an  one  mav  take  revenge. 

You  don't  expect  he  '11  eaten  up  stone  and  fling,  755 

Or  try  cross-buttock,^  or  whirl  quarter-staff  ?  * 

Instead  of  the  honest  drubbing  clowns  bestow. 

When  out  of  temper  at  the  dinner  spoilt. 

On  meddling  mother-in-law  and  tiresome  wife,  — 

Substitute  for  the  clown  a  nobleman,  760 

And  you  have  Guido,  practising,  't  is  said, 

Immitigably  fi"om  the  very  first. 

The  finer  vengeance :  this,  they  say,  the  fact 

O'  the  famous  letter  shows  —  the  writing  traced 

At  Guide's  instance  by  the  timid  wife  765 

Over  the  pencilled  words  himself  writ  first — 

Wherein  she,  who  could  neither  write  nor  read, 

Was  made  unblushingly  declare  a  tale 

To  the  brother,  the  Abate  then  in  Rome, 

How  her  putative  parents  had  impressed,  770 

On  their  departure,  their  enjoinment ;  bade 

"We  being  safely  arrived  here,  follow,  you! 

Poison  your  husband,  rob,  set  fire  to  ail, 

And  then  by  means  o'  the  gallant  you  procure 

With  ease,  oy  helpful  eye  and  ready  tongue,  775 

Some  brave  youth  ready  to  dare,  do  and  die. 

You  shall  run  off  and  merrily  reach  Rome 

Where  we  may  live  like  flies  in  honey-pot : "  — 

Such  being  exact  the  programme  of  the  course 

Imputed  her  as  carried  to  effect.  780 

They  also  say,  —  to  keep  her  straight  therein, 

All  sort  of  torture  was  piled,  pain  on  pain, 

On  either  side  Pompilia's  path  of  life. 

Built  round  about  and  over  against  by  fear, 

Circumvallated  month  by  month,  and  week  785 

By  week,  and  day  by  day,  and  hour  by  hour, 

Close,  closer  and  yet  closer  still  with  pain. 

No  outlet  fi*om  the  encroaching  pain  save  just 

Where  stood  one  saviour  like  a  piece  of  heaven, 

>  Cross-buttcck  :  a  blow  across  the  back.        »  Quarter-staff:  a  long,  stout  staff 


Heirs  arms  would  strain  round  but  for  this  blue  gap.  790 

She,  they  say  further,  first  tried  every  chink, 

Every  imaginable  break  T  the  fire. 

As  way  of  escape :  ran  to  the  Commissary, 

Who  oade  her  not  malign  his  friend  her  spouse ; 

Flung  herself  thrice  at  the  Archbishop's  feet,  795 

Where  three  times  the  Archbishop  let  her  lie, 

Spend  her  whole  sorrow  and  sob  mil  heart  forth, 

And  then  took  up  the  slight  load  fi'om  the  ground 

And  bore  it  back  for  husband  to  chastise,  — 

Mildly  of  course,  —  but  natural  right  is  right.  800 

So  went  she  slipping  ever  yet  catching  at  help, 

Missing  the  high  till  come  to  lowest  and  last, 

To-wit  a  certain  friar  of  mean  degree. 

Who  heard  her  story  in  confession,  wept. 

Crossed  himself,  showed  the  man  within  the  monk.  805 

"Then,  will  you  save  me,  you  the  one  i'  the  world? 

I  cannot  even  write  my  woes,  nor  put 

My  prayer  for  help  in  words  a  friend  may  read,  — 

I  no  more  own  a  coin  than  have  an  hour 

Free  of  observance,  —  I  was  watched  to  church,  810 

Am  watched  now,  shall  be  watched  back  presently,  — 

How  buy  the  skill  of  scribe  i'  the  market-place  ? 

Pray  you,  write  down  and  send  whatever  I  say 

O'  the  need  I  have  my  parents  take  me  hence ! " 

The  good  man  rubbed  his  eyes  and  could  not  choose —      815 

Let  her  dictate  her  letter  in  such  a  sense 

That  parents,  to  save  breaking  down  a  wall. 

Might  lift  her  over :  she  went  back,  heaven  in  heart. 

Then  the  good  man  took  counsel  of  his  couch. 

Woke  and  thought  twice,  the  second  thought  the  best :      820 

"  Here  am  I,  foolish  body  that  I  be, 

Caueht  all  but  pushing,  teaching,  who  but  I, 

My  betters  their  plain  duty,  —  what,  I  dare 

Help  a  case  the  Archbishop  would  not  help. 

Mend  matters,  peradventure,  God  loves  mar?  825 

What  hath  the  married  life  but  strifes  and  plagues 

For  proper  dispensation?    So  a  fool 

Once  touched  the  ark,  —  poor  Uzzah  ^  that  I  am! 

Oh  married  ones,  much  rather  should  I  bid. 

In  patience  all  of  ye  possess  your  souls!  830 

This  life  is  brief  and  troubles  die  with  it : 

Where  were  the  prick  to  soar  up  homeward  else?" 

So  saying,  he  burnt  the  letter  he  had  writ, 

Said  Ave  for  her  intention,  in  its  place, 

^  U%%ak  :  a  Samuel,  vi.  6,  7;  z  Chronicles  xiii.  zo  (Hophni  was  wrongly  put  for  Uzz«h 
in  earlier  editions). 


Took  snuff  and  comfort,  and  had  done  with  all.  835 

Then  the  grim  arms  stretched  yet  a  little  more 

And  each  touched  each,  all  but  one  streak  i^  the  midst, 

Whereat  stood  Caponsacchi,  who  cried,  "  This  way. 

Out  by  me !    Hesitate  one  moment  more 

And  the  fire  shuts  out  me  and  shuts  in  you!  840 

Here  my  hand  holds  you  life  out! "    Whereupon 

She  clasped  the  hand,  which  closed  on  hers  and  drew 

Pompilia  out  o'  the  circle  now  complete. 

Whose  fault  or  shame  but  Guidons?  —  ask  her  friends. 

But  then  this  is  the  wife's  —  Pompilia's  tale  —  845 

Eve's  .  .  .  no,  not  Eve's,  since  Eve,  to  speak  the  truth, 

Was  hardly  £dlen  (our  candor  might  pronounce) 

When  simply  saying  in  her  own  defence 

"  The  serpent  tempted  me  and  I  did  eat." 

So  much  of  paradisal  nature.  Eve's !  850 

Her  daughters  ever  since  prefer  to  urge 

^^Adam  so  starved  me  I  was  fain  accept 

The  apple  any  serpent  pushed  my  way." 

What  an  elaborate  theory  have  we  here, 

Ingeniously  nursed  up,  pretentiously  855 

Brought  forth,  pushed  forward  amia  trumpet-blast, 

To  account  for  the  thawing  of  an  icicle. 

Show  us  there  needed  iEtna  vomit  flame 

Ere  run  the  crystal  into  dew-drops !    Else, 

How,  unless  hell  broke  loose  to  cause  the  step,  860 

How  could  a  married  lad^  go  astray  ? 

Bless  the  fools!    And  'tis  just  this  way  they  are  blessed. 

And  the  world  wags  still, — because  fools  are  sure 

—  Oh,  not  of  my  wife  nor  your  daughter!    No! 

But  of  their  own :  the  case  is  altered  quite.  865 

Look  now,  —  last  week,  the  lady  we  all  love,  — 

Daughter  o'  the  couple  we  all  venerate, 

Wife  of  the  husband  we  all  cap  before, 

Mother  o'  the  babes  we  all  breathe  blessings  on,  — 

Was  caught  in  converse  with  a  negro  page.  870 

Hell  thawed  that  icicle,  else  "  Why  was  it  — 

Why?" asked  and  echoed  the  fools.    "Because,  you  fools, — " 

So  did  the  dame's  self  answer,  she  who  could. 

With  that  fine  candor  only  forthcoming 

When  't  is  no  odds  whether  withheld  or  no  —  875 

"  Because  my  husband  was  the  saint  you  say. 

And,  —  with  that  childish  goodness,  absurd  faith. 

Stupid  self-satisfaction,  you  so  praise, — 

Saint  to  you,  insupportable  to  me. 

Had  he,  —  instead  of  calling  me  fine  names,  880 


Lucretia  ^  and  Susanna^  and  so  forth, 

And  curtaining  Correggio  carefully 

Lest  I  be  taught  that  I^da  '  had  two  legs,  — 

—  But  once  never  so  little  tweaked  my  nose 

For  peeping  through  my  fan  at  Carnival^  885 

Confessing  thereby  *•  I  have  no  easy  task — 

I  need  use  all  my  powers  to  hold  you  mine, 

And  then,  —  why  ^t  is  so  doubtful  if  they  serve, 

That  —  take  this,  as  an  earnest  of  despair!  * 

Why,  we  were  quits :  I  had  wiped  the  harm  away,  890 

Thought  *  The  man  fears  me ! '  and  foregone  revenge." 

We  must  not  want  all  this  elaborate  work 

To  solve  the  problem  why  young  Fancy-and-flesh 

Slips  from  the  dull  side  of  a  spouse  in  years. 

Betakes  it  to  the  breast  of  Brisk-and-bold  895 

Whose  love-scrapes  furnish  talk  for  all  the  town! 

Accordingly  one  word  on  the  other  side 

Tips  over  the  piled-up  fabric  of  a  tale. 

Guide  says  —  that  is,  alwavs,  his  friends  say— 

It  is  unlikely  from  the  wicKedness,  900 

That  any  man  treat  any  woman  so. 

The  letter  in  question  was  her  very  own, 

Unprompted  and  unaided :  she  could  write— 

As  able  to  write  as  ready  to  sin,  or  free. 

When  there  was  danger^  to  deny  both  facts.  905 

He  bids  you  mark,  herself  from  first  to  last 

Attributes  all  the  so-styled  torture  just 

To  jealousy, — jealousy  of  whom  but  just 

This  very  Caponsacchi !     How  suits  here 

This  witn  the  other  alleged  motive,  Prince?  910 

Would  Guido  make  a  terror  of  the  man 

He  meant  should  tempt  the  woman,  as  they  chatge? 

Do  you  fright  your  hare  that  you  may  eaten  your  hare? 

Consider  too,  the  charge  was  made  and  met 

At  the  proper  time  and  place  where  proofs  were  plain  —     915 

Heard  patiently  and  disposed  of  thoroughly 

By  the  highest  powers,  possessors  of  most  light, 

The  Governor  lor  the  law,  and  the  Archbishop 

For  the  gospel :  which  acknowledged  primacies, 

'T  is  impudently  pleaded,  he  could  warp  920 

Into  a  tacit  partnership  with  crime  — 

He  being  the  while,  believe  their  own  account, 

>  Lucreiia  :    wife   of  Collatinus,    whose         *  Susanna  :  wife  of  Joacim,  wrongly  ac- 
praise  of  her  above  the  wives  of  Tarquin  and    cased  and  condemned  to  death,  but  proved 
others  was  proved  by  finding  her  spinning  at    innocent  by  Daniel,  and  her  accusers  shown 
home,  while  the  other  wives  were  found  danc-    to  be  the  guilty  ones.    See  Apocrypha, 
ing  and  revelling.  ^  Leda  :  Correggio's  picture  of  Leda  and 

tb«  Swan,  now  in  the  Berlin  Museum, 

TERTWhf  QUID.  129 

Impotent,  penniless  and  miserable  I 

He  further  asks  —  Duke,  note  the  knotty  point!  —• 

How  he,  —  concede  him  skill  to  play  such  part  925 

And  drive  his  wife  into  a  gaUant's  arms,-- 

Could  bring  the  gallant  to  play  his  part  too 

And  stand  with  arms  so  opportunely  wide? 

How  bring  this  Caponsacchi, — with  whom,  friends 

And  foes  alike  agree,  throughout  his  life  930 

He  never  interchanged  a  civil  word 

Nor  lifted  courteous  cap  to — him  how  bend 

To  such  observancy  of  beck  and  call, 

— To  undertake  this  strange  and  perilous  feat 

For  the  good  of  Guido,  using,  as  the  lure,  935 

Pompilia  whom,  himself  and  she  avouch. 

He  had  nor  spoken  with  nor  seen,  indeed, 

Bevond  sight  in  a  public  theatre, 

Wnen  she  wrote  letters  (she  that  could  not  write  I) 

The  importunate  shamelessly-protested  love  940 

Which  brought  him,  though  reluctant,  to  her  feet. 

And  forced  on  him  the  plunge  which,  howsoever 

She  might  swim  up  i^  the  whirl,  must  bury  him 

Under  abysmal  black :  a  priest  contrive 

No  better,  no  amour  to  be  hushed  up,  945 

But  open  flight  and  noon-day  infamy? 

Try  and  concoct  defence  for  such  revolt! 

Take  the  wife^s  tale  as  true,  say  she  was  wronged, — 

Pray,  in  what  rubric  of  breviary 

Do  you  find  it  registered  —  the  part  of  a  priest  950 

Is  —  that  to  right  wrongs  from  the  church  he  skip, 

Go  journeying  with  a  woman  that 's  a  wife, 

And  be  pursued,  overtaken  and  captured  .  .  .  how? 

In  a  lay-dress,  playing  the  kind  sentinel 

Where  the  wijfe  sleeps  (says  he  who  best  should  know)      955 

And  sleeping,  sleepless,  both  have  spent  the  night! 

Could  no  one  else  be  found  to  serve  at  need  — 

No  woman — or  if  man,  no  safer  sort 

Than  this  not  well-reputed  turbulence  ? 

Then,  look  into  his  own  account  o^  the  case!  960 

He,  being  the  stranger  and  astonished  one, 

Yet  received  protestations  of  her  love 

From  lady  neither  known  nor  cared  about : 

Love,  so  protested,  bred  in  him  disgust 

After  the  wonder,  —  or  incredulity,  965 

Such  impudence  seeming  impossible. 

But,  soon  assured  such  impudence  might  be. 

When  he  had  seen  with  his  own  eyes  at  last 

Letters  thrown  down  to  him  i'  the  very  street 

From  behind  lattice  where  the  lady  lurked,  970 


And  read  their  passionate  summons  to  her  side  — 

Why  then,  a  thousand  thoughts  swarmed  up  and  in^  -> 

How  he  had  seen  her  once,  a  moment's  space, 

Observed  she  was  both  young  and  beautitiil, 

Heard  everywhere  report  she  suffered  much  975 

From  a  jealous  husband  thrice  her  age,  —  in  short 

There  flashed  the  propriety,  expediency 

Of  treating,  trying  might  they  come  to  terms^ 

—  At  all  events,  granting  the  interview 

Prayed  for,  one  so  adapted  to  assist  980 

Decision  as  to  whether  he  advance. 

Stand  or  retire,  in  his  benevolent  mood! 

Therefore  the  interview  befell  at  length ; 

And  at  this  one  and  only  interview. 

He  saw  the  sole  and  single  course  to  take —  985 

Bade  her  dispose  of  him,  head,  heart  and  hand. 

Did  her  behest  and  braved  the  consequence, 

Not  for  the  natural  end,  the  love  of  man 

For  woman  whether  love  be  virtue  or  vice, 

But,  please  you,  altogether  for  pity's  sake—  990 

Pity  of  innocence  and  helplessness! 

And  how  did  he  assure  himself  of  both? 

Had  he  been  the  house-inmate,  visitor, 

Eye-witness  of  the  described  martyrdom, 

So,  competent  to  pronounce  its  remedy  995 

Ere  rush  on  such  extreme  and  desperate  course— 

Involving  such  enormity  of  harm. 

Moreover,  to  the  husband  judged  thus,  doomed 

And  damned  without  a  word  in  his  defence? 

Not  he !  the  truth  was  felt  by  instinct  here,  1000 

—  Process  which  saves  a  world  of  trouble  and  time. 
There 's  the  priest's  story :  what  do  you  say  to  it 
Trying  its  truth  by  your  own  instinct  too. 

Since  that's  to  be  the  expeditious  mode? 

"  And  now,  do  hear  my  version,"  Guido  cries :  1005 

'^  I  accept  argument  and  inference  both. 

It  would  indeed  have  been  miraculous 

Had  such  a  confidency  sprung  to  birth 

With  no  more  fanning  from  acquaintanceship 

Than  here  avowed  by  my  wife  and  this  priest.  loio 

Only,  it  did  not :  you  must  substitute 

The  old  stale  unromantic  way  of  fault. 

The  commonplace  adventure,  mere  intrigue 

In  prose  form  with  the  unpoetic  tricks, 

Cheatings  and  lies :  they  used  the  hackney  chair  1015 

Satan  jaunts  forth  with,  shabby  and  serviceable, 

No  gilded  gimcrack-novelty  from  below. 

To  bowl  you  along  thither,  swift  and  sure. 


That  same  officious  go-between,  the  wench 

Who  gave  and  took  the  letters  of  the  two,  1020 

Now  ofifers  self  and  service  back  to  me : 

Bears  testimony  to  visits  night  by  night 

When  all  was  safe,  the  husband  far  and  away,  — 

To  many  a  timely  slipping  out  at  large 

By  light  o*  the  morning-star,  ere  he  should  wake.  1025 

And  when  the  fugitives  were  found  at  last, 

Why,  with  them  were  found  also,  to  belie 

What  protest  they  might  make  of  innocence, 

All  documents  yet  wanting,  if  need  were, 

To  establish  guilt  in  them,  disgrace  in  me  —  1030 

The  chronicle  o'  the  converse  from  its  rise 

To  culmination  in  this  outrage :  read! 

Letters  from  wife  to  priest,  from  priest  to  wife,  — 

Here  they  are,  read  and  say  where  they  chime  in 

With  the  other  tale,  superlative  purity  1035 

O^  the  pair  of  saints !    I  stand  or  fall  by  these.^* 

But  then  on  the  other  side  again,  —  how  say 

The  pair  of  saints  ?     That  not  one  word  is  theirs  — 

No  syllable  o'  the  batch  or  writ  or  sent 

Or  yet  received  by  either  of  the  two.  1040 

"  Found,"  says  the  priest,  "  because  he  needed  them, 

Failing  all  other  proofs,  to  prove  our  &ult. 

So,  here  they  are,  just  as  is  natural. 

Oh  yes  —  we  had  our  missives,  each  of  us ! 

Not  these,  but  to  the  full  as  vile,  no  doubt :  1045 

Hers  as  from  me,  —  she  could  not  read,  so  burnt,  — 

Mine  as  from  her, —  I  burnt  because  I  read. 

Who  forged  and  found  them?     Cut  prof uerint ! "  * 

(I  take  the  phrase  out  of  your  Highness'  mouth) 

"  He  who  would  gain  by  her  fault  and  my  fall,  1050 

The  trickster,  schemer  and  pretender — he 

Whose  whole  career  was  lie  entailing  lie 

Sought  to  be  sealed  truth  by  the  worst  lie  last!" 

Guido  rejoins  —  "  Did  the  other  end  o'  the  tale 

Match  this  beginning  !    'T  is  alleged  I  prove  1055 

A  murderer  at  the  end,  a  man  of  force 

Prompt,  indiscriminate,  effectual :  good ! 

Then  what  need  all  this  trifling  woman's-work. 

Letters  and  embassies  and  weak  intrigue. 

When  will  and  power  were  mine  to  end  at  once  1060 

Safely  and  surely?    Murder  had  come  first 

Not  last  with  such  a  man,  assure  yourselves! 

*  Cuiprofuerini :  whom  they  might  profit. 


The  silent  acquetta,^  stilling  at  command  — 

A  drop  a  day  i'  the  wine  or  soup,  the  dose,  — 

The  shattering  beam  that  breakis  above  the  bed  1065 

And  beats  out  brains,  with  nobody  to  blame 

Except  the  wormy  age  which  eats  even  oak, — 

Nay,  the  staunch  steel  or  trusty  cord, —  who  cans 

r  the  blind  old  palace,  a  pitfall  at  each  step, 

With  none  to  see,  much  more  to  interpose  1070 

O'  the  two,  three,  creeping  house-dog-servant-thingB 

Born  mine  and  bred  mine?    Had  I  willed  gross  death, 

I  had  found  nearer  paths  to  thrust  him  prey 

Than  this  that  goes  meandering  here  and  there 

Through  half  the  world  and  cans  down  in  its  course  1075 

Notice  and  noise,  —  hate,  vengeance,  should  it  fail. 

Derision  and  contempt  though  it  succeed! 

Moreover,  what  o^  the  future  son  and  heir? 

The  unborn  babe  about  to  be  called  mine,  — 

What  end  in  heaping  all  this  shame  on  him,  1080 

Were  I  indifferent  to  my  own  black  share? 

Would  I  have  tried  these  crookednesses,  say, 

Willing  and  able  to  effect  the  straight?  " 

** Ay,  would  you! ''  —  one  may  hear  the  priest  retort, 
"Being  as  you  are,  i'  the  stock,  a  man  of  guile,  1085 

And  ruffianism  but  an  added  graft. 
You,  a  bom  coward,  try  a  coward's  arms, 
Trick  and  chicane,  —  and  only  when  these  fail 
Does  violence  follow,  and  like  fox  you  bite 
Caught  out  in  stealing.    Also,  the  disgrace  1090 

You  hardly  shrunk  at,  wholly  shrivelled  her : 
You  plunged  her  thin  white  delicate  hand  P  the  flatte 
Along  with  your  coarse  horny  brutish  fist. 
Held  them  a  second  there,  then  drew  out  both 
—  Yours  roughed  a  little,  hers  ruined  through  and  through. 
'     Your  hurt  would  heal  forthwith  at  ointment's  touch  * —       1096 
Namely,  succession  to  the  inheritance 
Which  bolder  crime  had  lost  you :  let  things  change, 
The  birth ^o'  the  boy  warrant  the  bolder  cnme, 
Why,  murder  was  determined,  dared  and  done.  iioo 

For  me,"  the  priest  proceeds  with  his  reply, 
**  The  look  o'  the  thmg,  the  chances  of  mistake, 
All  were  against  me,  —  that,  I  knew  the  first : 
But,  knowmg  also  what  my  duty  was, 

I  did  it :  I  must  look  to  men  more  skilled  1 105 

In  reading  hearts  than  ever  was  the  world.'^ 

^  Acqufff^ ;  A^jua  T^gUixia^  a  poisonous  liquid  much  used  in  Italy  in  the  seventeenth 


Highness,  decide!    Pronounce,  Her  Excellency! 

Or  .  .  .  even  leave  this  argument  in  doubt, 

Account  it  a  fit  matter,  taken  up 

With  all  its  £Eu:es,  manifold  enough,  11 10 

To  ponder  on  —  what  fronts  us,  the  next  stagey 

Next  legal  process  ?    Guido,  in  pursuit. 

Coming  up  with  the  fugitives  at  the  inn, 

Causedboth  to  be  arrested  then  and  there 

And  sent  to  Rome  for  judgment  on  the  case —  11 15 

Thither,  with  all  his  armory  of  proofs. 

Betook  himself:  \  is  there  we  ^11  meet  him  new^ 

Waiting  the  further  issue. 

Here  you  smile 
"  And  never  let  him  henceforth  dare  to  plead,  — 
Of  all  pleas  and  excuses  in  the  world  11 20 

For  any  deed  hereafter  to  be  done,  — 
His  irrepressible  wrath  at  honoris  wound! 
Passion  and  madness  irrepressible  ? 

<<  Why,  Count  and  cavalier,  the  husband  comes 
And  catches  foe  i'  the  very  act  of  shame!  1125 

There's  man  to  man, —  nature  must  have  her  way,  — 
We  look  he  should  have  cleared  things  on  the  spot. 
Yes,  then,  indeed  —  even  tho'  it  prove  he  erred — 
Though  the  ambiguous  first  appearance,  mount 
Of  sond  injury,  melt  soon  to  mist,  1 130 

Still, —  had  he  slain  the  lover  and  the  wife  — 
Or,  since  she  was  a  woman  and  his  wife. 
Skin  him,  but  stript  her  naked  to  the  skin 
Or  at  best  left  no  more  of  an  attire 

Than  patch  sufficient  to  pin  paper  to,  1135 

Some  one  love-letter,  infamy  and  all, 
As  passport  to  the  Paphos  ^  fit  for  such. 
Safe-conduct  to  her  natural  home  the  stews,  — 
Good!    One  had  recos^nized  the  power  o'  the  pulse. 
But  when  he  stands,  the  stock-fish,  —  sticks  to  law —       1140 
Offers  the  hole  in  his  heart,  all  fresh  and  warm. 
For  scrivener's  pen  to  poke  and  play  about — 
Can  stand,  can  stare,  can  tell  his  beads  perhaps, 
Oh,  let  us  hear  no  syllable  o'  the  rage ! 

Such  rage  were  a  convenient  afterthought  1 145 

For  one  who  would  have  shown  his  teeth  belike, 
Exhibited  unbridled  rage  enough, 
Had  but  the  priest  been  found,  as  was  to  hope, 
In  serge,  not  silk,  with  crucifix,  not  sword : 
Whereas  the  gray  innocuous  grub,  of  yore,  11 50 

^  PaPhps :  Paphos,  in  Cyprus,  was  the    which  was  there  accompanied  by  licentious 
headquarters  of  the  worship  of  Aphrodite,    rites  and  practices. 


Had  hatched  a  hornet,  tickle  to  the  touch, 

The  priest  was  metamorphosed  into  knight. 

And  even  the  timid  wife,  whose  cue  was  —  shriek. 

Bury  her  brow  beneath  his  trampling  foot,  — 

She  too  sprang  at  him  like  a  pythoness :  1155 

So,  gulp  down  rage,  passion  must  be  postponed. 

Calm  be  the  word!    Well,  our  word  is  —  we  brand 

This  part  o'  the  business,  howsoever  the  rest 


"Nay,"  interpose  as  prompt  his  friends — 
•  "  This  is  the  world's  way!     So  you  adjudge  reward  11 60 

To  the  forbearance  and  legality 
Yourselves  begin  by  inculcating  —  ay. 
Exacting  from  us  all  with  knife  at  throat! 
This  one  wrong  more  you  add  to  wrong's  amount,  — 
You  publish  all,  with  the  kind  comment  here,  11 65 

*  Its  victim  was  too  cowardly  for  revenge.' " 
Make  it  your  own  case,  —  you  who  stand  apart! 
The  husband  wakes  one  morn  from  heavy  sleep. 
With  a  taste  of  poppy  in  his  mouth,  —  rubs  eyes. 
Finds  his  wife  flown,  his  strong  box  ransacked  too,  1170 

Follows  as  he  best  can,  overtakes  i'  the  end. 
You  bid  him  use  his  privilege :  well,  it  seems 
He 's  scarce  cool-blooded  enough  for  the  right  move  — 
Does  not  shoot  when  the  game  were  sure,  but  stands 
Bewildered  at  the  critical  minute,  —  since  1 175 

He  has  the  first  flash  of  the  fact  alone 
To  judge  from,  act  with,  not  the  steady  lights 
Of  after-knowledge,  —  yours  who  stand  at  ease 
To  try  conclusions :  he 's  in  smother  and  smoke, 
You  outside,  with  explosion  at  an  end :  11 80 

The  sulphur  may  be  lightning  or  a  squib  — 
He  '11  know  in  a  minute,  but  till  then,  he  doubts. 
Back  from  what  you  know  to  what  he  knew  not! 
Hear  the  priest's  lofty  "  I  am  innocent," 
The  wife's  as  resolute  "  You  are  guilty! "    Come!  11 85 

Are  you  not  staggered? — pause,  and  you  lose  the  move! 
Nought  left  you  but  a  low  appeal  to  law, 
"  Coward  "  tied  to  your  tail  for  compliment! 
Another  consideration :  have  it  your  way! 
Admit  the  worst :  his  courage  failed  the  Count,  1 190 

He 's  cowardly  like  the  best  o'  the  burgesses 
He 's  grown  incorporate  with,  —  a  very  cur, 
Kick  him  from  out  your  circle  by  all  means! 
Why,  trundled  down  this  reputable  stair. 
Still,  the  Church-door  lies  wide  to  take  him  in,  1195 

And  the  Court-porch  also :  in  he  sneaks  to  eadh,  — 
"  Yes,  I  have  lost  my  honor  and  my  wife. 


And,  being  moreover  an  i^oble  hound, 

I  dare  not  jeopardize  my  life  for  them!  '* 

Religion  and  Law  lean  forward  from  their  chairs,  1200 

^  Well  done,  thou  good  and  faithful  servant! ''    Ay, 

Not  only  applaud  him  that  be  scorned  the  world. 

But  punish  should  he  dare  do  otherwise. 

If  the  case  be  clear  or  turbid,  —  you  must  say! 

Thus,  anyhow,  it  mounted  to  the  stage  1205 

In  the  law-courts,  —  let's  see  clearly  from  this  point! 

Where  the  priest  tells  his  story  true  or  false. 

And  the  wife  her  story,  and  the  husband  his, 

All  with  result  as  happy  as  before. 

The  courts  would  nor  condemn  nor  yet  acquit  12 10 

This,  that  or  the  other,  in  so  distinct  a  sense 

As  end  the  strife  to  either's  absolute  loss : 

Pronounced,  in  place  of  something  definite, 

^  Each  of  the  parties,  whether  goat  or  sheep 

r  the  main,  has  wool  to  show  and  hair  to  hide.  121 5 

Each  has  brought  somehow  trouble,  is  somehow  cause 

Of  pains  enough, — even  though  no  worse  were  proved. 

Here  is  a  husband,  cannot  rule  his  wife 

Without  provoking  her  to  scream  and  scratch 

And  scour  the  fields,  —  causelessly,  it  may  be :  1220 

Here  is  that  wife,  —  who  makes  her  sex  our  plague. 

Wedlock,  our  bugbear,  —  perhaps  with  cause  enough : 

And  here  is  the  truant  priest  o^  the  trio,  worst 

Or  best —  each  quality  oeing  conceivable. 

Let  us  impose  a  little  mulct  on  each.  1225 

We  punish  youth  in  state  of  pupilage 

Who  talk  at  hours  when  youth  is  bound  to  sleep. 

Whether  the  prattle  turn  upon  Saint  Rose  * 

Or  Donna  Olimpia  *  of  the  Vatican : 

'  T  is  talk,  talked  wisely  or  unwisely  talked,  1230 

r  the  dormitory  where  to  talk  at  all. 

Transgresses,  and  is  mulct :  as  here  we  mean. 

For  the  wife,  —  let  her  betake  herself,  for  rest, 

After  her  run,  to  a  house  of  Convertites  — 

Keep  there,  as  good  as  real  imprisonment :  1235 

Being  sick  and  tired,  she  will  recover  so. 

For  the  priest,  spritely  strayer  out  of  bounds. 

1  Saint  Rose  :  the  Virgin  Martyr  of  Beth-  with  red  and  white  roses,  "  the  first  that  ever 

lehem  who  rejected  the  suit  of  Hamuel,  and  any  man  saw." 

therefore  was  accused  by  him  and  condemned         *  Olimpia  :  the  sister-in-law  or  the  niece 

to  be  burned  alive,  but  the  flames  caught  at  of  Pope  Innocent  X.  (1644)  —  both  bore  the 

Hamuel  and  burned  him  instead;  leaving  her  name  of  Olimpia;  —  but  the  niece  outdid  her 

anhurti  and  her  stake  budded  and  bloomed  mother  in  voluptuousness. 


Who  made  Arezzo  hot  to  hold  him^ — Rome 

Profits  bv  his  withdrawal  from  the  scene. 

Let  him  oe  relegate  to  Civita,  1240 

Circumscribed  by  its  bounds  till  matters  mend : 

There  he  at  least  lies  out  o^  the  way  of  harm 

From  foes  —  perhaps  from  the  too  friendly  fiur. 

And  finally  for  the  husband,  whose  rash  nile 

Has  but  itself  to  blame  for  this  ado, —  1245 

If  he  be  vexed  that,  in  our  judgments  dealt. 

He  fails  obtain  what  he  accounts  his  right, 

Let  him  go  comforted  with  the  thought,  no  less. 

That,  turn  each  sentence  howsoever  he  may, 

There  ^s  satisfaction  to  extract  therefrom.  1250 

For,  does  he  wish  his  wife  proved  innocent? 

Well,  she  ^s  not  guilty,  he  may  safely  urge. 

Has  missed  the  stripes  dishonest  wives  endure— 

This  being  a  fatherly  pat  o^  the  cheek,  no  more. 

Does  he  wish  her  guilty?    Were  she  otherwise  1255 

Would  she  be  locked  up,  set  to  say  her  pravers, 

Prevented  intercourse  with  the  outside  world, 

And  that  suspected  priest  in  banishment, 

Whose  portion  is  a  further  help  i^  the  case? 

Oh,  ay,  you  all  of  you  want  the  other  thing,  1260 

The  extreme  of  law,  some  verdict  neat,  complete,—- 

Either,  the  whole  o'  the  dowry  in  your  poke 

With  ^11  release  from  the  false  wue,  to  boot, 

And  heading,  hanging  for  the  priest,  beside — 

Or,  contrary,  claim  freedom  for  the  wife,  1265 

Repayment  of  each  penny  paid  her  spouse. 

Amends  for  the  past,  release  for  the  mture!    Such 

Is  wisdom  to  the  children  of  this  world ; 

But  we've  no  mind,  we  children  of  the  light. 

To  miss  the  advantage  of  the  golden  mean,  1270 

And  push  things  to  the  steel  point/*    Thus  the  courts. 

Is  it  settled  so  far?    Settled  or  disturbed. 

Console  yourselves :  H  is  like  ...  an  instance,  now!  . 

You  Ve  seen  the  puppets,  of  Place  Navona,*  play>  — 

Punch  and  his  mate,  —  how  threats  pass,  blows  are  dealt,  1275 

And  a  crisis  comes :  the  crowd  or  dap  or  hiss 

Accordingly  as  disposed  for  man  or  wife  — 

When  down  the  actors  duck  awhile  perdue, 

Donning  what  novel  rag-and-feather  trim 

Best  suits  the  next  adventure,  new  effect :  1 280 

And,  —  by  the  time  the  mob  is  on  the  move. 

With  something  like  a  judgment /r(?  and  can^  — 

*  Place  Navona  :  an  oblong  square  in  which  are  three  fountaint. 


There's  a  whistle,  up  a|g;ain  the  actors  pop 

In  t'  other  tatter  with  fresh-tinselled  staves. 

To  re-engage  In  one  last  worst  fight  more  1285 

Shsdl  show,  what  you  thoug^ht  tragedy  was  farce. 

Note,  that  the  dimax  and  tne  crown  of  things 

Invariably  is,  the  devil  appears  himself, 

Armed  and  accoutred,  horns  and  hoofs  and  tail  I 

Just  so,  nor  otherwise  it  proved —  you  *11  see :  1290 

Move  to  the  murder,  never  mind  the  rest  I 

Guido,  at  such  a  general  duck-down, 
I*  the  breathing-space, — of  wife  to  convent  here^ 
Priest  to  his  rdegation,  and  himself 

To  Arezzo,  —  had  resigned  his  part  perforce  1295 

To  brother  Abate,  who  bustled,  did  his  best. 
Retrieved  things  somewhat,  managed  the  three  suits  — 
Since,  it  should  seem,  there  were  three  suits-at-law 
Behoved  him  look  to,  still,  lest  bad  grow  worse : 
First  civil  suit,^ — the  one  the  parents  brought,  1300 

Impugning  the  legitimacy  of  his  wife, 
Affirming  thence  the  nullity  of  her  rights : 
This  was  before  the  Rota, — Molin^s, 
That^s  judge  therC)  made  that  notable  decree 
Which  parUy  leaned  to  Guido,  as  I  said,  —  1305 

But  Pietro  had  appealed  against  the  same 
To  the  very  court  will  judge  what  we  judge  now— 
Tommati  and  his  fellows,  —  Suit  the  first. 
Next  civil  suit, — demand  on  the  wife's  part 
Of  separation  from  the  husband's  bed  131C1 

On  plea  of  cruelty  and  risk  to  life  — 
Claims  restitution  of  the  dowry  paid, 
Immunity  from  paying  any  more : 
This  second,  the  Vicegerent  has  to  jud^e. 
.Third  and  last  suit,  —  this  time,  a  criminal  one,  —  1315 

Answer  to,  and  protection  from,  both  these, — 
Guido's  complaint  of  guilt  against  his  wife 
In  the  Tribunal  of  the  Governor, 
Venturini,  also  judge  of  the  present  cause. 
Three  suits  of  all  importance  plaguing  him,  1320 

Beside  a  little  private  enterprise 
Of  Guido's, — essay  at  a  shorter  cut. 
For  Paolo,  knowing  the  right  way  at  Rome, 
Had,  even  while  superintending  these  three  suits 
I'  the  regular  way,  each  at  its  proper  court,  1325 

Ingeniously  made  interest  with  the  Pope 
To  set  such  tedious  regular  forms  aside. 
And,  acting  the  supreme  and  ultimate  judge, 
Declare  for  the  husband  and  against  the  wifo. 


Well,  at  such  crisis  and  extreme  of  straits, —  1330 

The  man  at  bay,  buffeted  in  this  wise, — 

Happened  the  strangest  accident  of  all. 

<<  Then/^  sigh  friends,  <^  the  last  feather  broke  his  back, 

Made  him  forget  all  possible  remedies 

Save  one  —  he  rushed  to,  as  the  sole  relief  1335 

From  horror  and  the  abominable  thing.^ 

"  Or  rather,"  laugh  foes,  "  then  did  there  be£dl 

The  luckiest  of  conceivable  events, 

Most  pregnant  with  impunity  for  him. 

Which  henceforth  turned  the  flank  of  all  attack,  1340 

And  bade  him  do  his  wickedest  and  worst^ 

—  The  wife's  withdrawal  from  the  Convertites, 
Visit  to  the  villa  where  her  parents  lived, 

And  birth  there  of  his  babe.    Divergence  here! 

I  simply  take  the  facts,  ask  what  they  show.  1345 

First  comes  this  thunderclap  of  a  surprise : 

Then  follow  all  the  signs  and  silences 

Premonitpry  of  earthquake.    Paolo  first 

Vanished,  was  swept  off  somewhere,  lost  to  Rome : 

(Wells  dry  up,  while  the  sky  is  sunny  and  blue).  1350 

Then  Guido  girds  himself  for  enterprise, 

Hies  to  Vittiano,  counsels  with  his  steward, 

Comes  to  terms  with  four  peasants  young  and  bold. 

And  starts  for  Rome  the  Holy,  reaches  her 

At  very  holiest,  for  't  is  Christmas  Eve,  1355 

And  makes  straight  for  the  Abaters  dried-up  font, 

The  lodge  where  Paolo  ceased  to  work  the  pipes. 

And  then,  rest  taken,  observation  made 

And  plan  completed,  all  in  a  grim  week, 

The  nve  proceed  in  a  body,  reach  the  place,  1360 

—  Pietro's,  at  the  Paolina,  silent,  lone, 
And  stupefied  by  the  propitious  snow. 

'T  is  one  i'  the  evening :  knock :  a  voice  "Who's  there?  " 

"  Friends  with  a  letter  from  the  priest  your  friend." 

At  the  door,  straight  smiles  old  Violante's  self.  1365 

She  fEdls,  —  her  son-in-law  stabs  through  and  through, 

Reaches  through  her  at  Pietro  —  "  Wi3i  your  son 

This  is  the  way  to  settle  suits,  good  sire! " 

He  bellows  "  Mercy  for  heaven,  not  for  earth! 

Leave  to  confess  and  save  my  sinful  soul,  1370 

Then  do  your  pleasure  on  the  body  of  me!" 

—  "Nay,  father,  soul  with  body  must  take  its  chance! " 
He  presently  got  his  portion  and  lay  still. 

And  last,  Pompilia  rushes  here  and  there 

Like  a  dove  among  the  lightnings  in  her  brake  1375 

Falls  also :  Guidons,  this  last  husbs^n^'s-act* 


He  lifts  her  by  the  long  dishevelled  hair, 

Holds  her  away  at  arm^s  length  with  one  hand, 

While  the  other  tries  if  life  come  from  the  mouth  — 

Looks  out  his  whole  hearths  hate  on  the  shut  eves,  1380 

Draws  a  deep  satisfied  breath,  "  So  —  dead  at  last! " 

Throws  down  the  burden  on  dead  Pietro's  knees, 

And  ends  all  with  "  Let  us  away,  my  boys! " 

And,  as  they  left  by  one  door,  in  at  the  other 

Tumbled  the  neighbors  —  for  the  shrieks  had  pierced        1385 

To  the  mill  and  the  grange,  this  cottage  and  that  shed. 

Soon  followed  the  Public  Force ;  pursuit  began 

Though  Guido  had  the  start  and  chose  the  road : 

So,  that  same  night  was  he,  with  the  other  four. 

Overtaken  near  Baccano, — where  they  sank  1390 

By  the  way-side,  in  some  shelter  meant  for  beasts, 

And  now  lay  heaped  together,  nuzzling  swine. 

Each  wrapped  in  bloody  cloak,  each  grasping  still 

His  unwiped  weapon,  sleeping  all  the  same 

The  sleep  o'  the  just,  —  a  journey  of  twenty  miles  1395 

Brought  just  and  unjust  to  a  level,  you  see.  * 

The  only  one  i'  the  world  that  suffered  aught 

By  the  whole  night^s  toil  and  trouble,  flight  and  chase. 

Was  just  the  officer  who  took  them,  Head 

O'  the  Public  Force,  —  Patrizj,  zealous  soul,  1400 

Who,  having  but  duty  to  sustain  weak  flesh. 

Got  heated,  caught  a  fever  and  so  died : 

A  warning  to  the  over-vigilant, 

—  Virtue  in  a  chafe  should  change  her  linen  quick. 

Lest  pleurisy  get  start  of  providence.  1405 

(That's  for  the  Cardinal,  and  told,  I  think!) 

Well,  they  bring  back  the  company  to  Rome 

Says  Guido,  "  By  your  leave,  I  fain  would  ask 

How  you  found  out 't  was  I  who  did  the  deed? 

What  put  you  on  my  trace,  a  foreigner,  1410 

Supposed  in  Arezzo,  —  and  assuredly  safe 

Except  for  an  oversight :  who  told  you,  pray?" 

"  Why,  naturally  your  wife ! "    Down  Guido  drops 

O'  the  horse  he  rode,  —  they  have  to  steady  and  stay. 

At  either  side  the  brute  that  bore  him,  bound,  141 5 

So  strange  it  seemed  his  wife  should  live  and  speak! 

She  had  prayed  —  at  least  so  people  tell  you  now  — 

For  but  one  thing  to  the  Virgin  for  herself. 

Not  simply,  as  did  Pietro  'mid  the  stabs,  — 

Time  to  confess  and  get  her  own  soul  saved  —  1420 

But  time  to  make  the  truth  apparent,  truth 

For  God's  sake,  lest  men  should  believe  a  lie : 


Which  seems  to  have  been  about  the  sin^e  prajrer 

She  ever  put  up,  that  was  granted  her. 

With  this  hope  in  her  head,  of  telling  truth,  —  1425 

Being  familiarized  with  pain,  beside,  — 

She  bore  the  stabbing  to  a  certain  pitch 

Without  a  useless  cry,  was  flung  for  dead 

On  Pietro^s  lap,  and  so  attained  her  point 

Her  friends  subjoin  this  —  have  I  done  with  them? —       1430 

And  cite  the  miracle  of  continued  life 

(She  was  not  dead  when  I  arrived  just  now) 

As  attestation  to  her  probity. 

Does  it  strike  your  Excellency  ?    Why,  your  Highness, 

The  self-command  and  even  the  flnal  prayer,  1435 

Our  candor  must  acknowledge  explicable 

As  easily  by  the  consciousness  of  guUt 

So,  when  they  add  that  her  confession  runs 

She  was  of  wifehood  one  white  innocence 

In  thought,  word,  act,  from  first  of  her  short  life  1440 

To  last  of  it ;  praying,  i'  the  face  of  death. 

That  God  forgive  her  other  sins  —  not  this, 

She  is  charged  with  and  must  die  for,  that  she  fiuled 

Anyway  to  ner  husband :  while  thereon 

Comments  the  old  Religious —  "  So  much  good,  1445 

Patience  beneath  enormity  of  ill, 

I  hear  to  my  confusion,  woe  is  me. 

Sinner  that  I  stand,  shamed  in  the  walk  and  gait 

I  have  practised  and  grown  old  in,  by  a  child!"  — 

Guidons  friends  shrug  the  shoulder,  <<  Just  this  same  1450 

Prodigious  absolute  calm  in  the  last  hour 

Confirms  us,  —  being  the  natural  result 

Of  a  life  which  proves  consistent  to  the  close. 

Having  braved  heaven  and  deceived  earth  throughout, 

She  braves  still  and  deceives  still,  gains  thereby  1455 

Two  ends,  she  prizes  beyond  earth  or  heaven : 

First  sets  her  lover  free,  imperilled  sore 

By  the  new  turn  things  take :  he  answers  yet 

For  the  part  he  played :  they  have  summoned  him  indeed : 

The  past  ripped  up,  he  may  be  punished  still :  1460 

What  better  way  of  saving  him  than  this  ? 

Then,  —  thus  she  dies  revenged  to  the  uttermost 

On  Guido,  drags  him  with  her  in  the  dark. 

The  lower  still  the  better,  do  you  doubt  ? 

Thus,  two  ways,  does  she  love  her  love  to  the  end,  1465 

And  hate  her  hate,  —  death,  hell  is  no  such  price 

To  pay  for  these,  —  lovers  and  haters  hold." 

But  there  's  another  parry  for  the  thrust. 

" Confession,"  cry  folks  —  "a  confession,  think! 


Confession  of  the  moribund  is  true!  ^*  147a 

Whidi  of  them,  my  wise  friends?    This  public  one^ 

Or  the  private  other  we  shall  never  know? 

The  pnvate  may  contain,  —  your  casuists  teach|— 

The  acknowlede;ment  of,  and  the  penitence  for, 

That  other  public  one,  so  people  say.  1475 

However  it  be,  —  we  trench  on  delicate  ground, 

Her  Eminence  is  peepine  o^er  the  cards,  — 

Can  one  find  nothmg  in  oehalf  of  this 

Catastrophe  ?    Deaf  folks  accuse  the  dumb  t 

You  criticise  the  drunken  reel,  fooPs  speech,  14S0 

Maniacal  gesture  of  the  man, — we  grant! 

But  who  poured  poison  in  his  cup,  we  ask? 

Recall  the  list  of  his  excessive  wrongs. 

First  cheated  in  his  wife,  robbed  by  her  kin, 

Rendered  anon  the  laughing-stock  o*  the  world  1485 

By  the  story,  true  or  false,  of  his  wife*s  birth, — 

The  last  seal  publicly  apposed  to  shame 

By  the  open  flight  of  wife  and  priest, — why,  Sirs 

Step  out  of  Rome  a  furlong,  would  you  know 

What  anotherguess  tribunal  than  ours  here,  1490 

Mere  worldly  Court  without  the  help  of  ^race, 

Thinks  of  just  that  one  incident  0*  the  flight? 

Guido  preferred  the  same  compladnt  before 

The  court  at  Arezzo,  bar  of  the  Granduke, — 

In  virtue  of  its  being  Tuscany  1495 

Where  the  offence  had  rise  and  flight  began,— ^ 

Self-same  complaint  he  made  in  the  sequel  here 

Where  the  offence  grew  to  the  full,  the  flight 

Ended :  offence  and  flight,  one  fact  judged  twice 

By  two  distinct  tribuns&,  —  what  result?  1500 

There  was  a  sentence  passed  at  the  same  time 

By  Arezzo  and  confirmed  b^  the  Granduke, 

Which  nothing  balks  of  swift  and  sure*  effect 

But  absence  of  the  guilty,  (flight  to  Rome 

Frees  them  from  Tuscan  jurisdiction  now)  1505 

—  Condemns  the  wife  to  the  opprobrious  doom 

Of  all  whom  law  just  lets  escape  from  death. 

The  Stinche,  House  of  Punishment,  for  life, — 

That 's  what  the  wife  deserves  in  Tuscany : 

Here,  she  deserves  —  remitting  with  a  smile  15 10 

To  her  ^ther^s  house,  main  object  of  the  flight! 

The  thief  presented  with  the  thing  he  steals  I 

At  this  discrepancy  of  judgments —  mad, 

The  man  took  on  himself  the  office,  judged ; 

And  the  only  argument  against  the  use  1515 

O^  the  law  he  thus  took  into  his  own  hands 


Is  .  .  .  what,  I  ask  you  ?  —  that,  revenging  wrongs 

He  did  not  revenge  sooner,  kill  at  first 

Whom  he  killed  last!    That  is  the  final  charge. 

Sooner  ?    What 's  soon  or  late  i'  the  case  ? — ask  we.         1 52a 

A  wound  i^  the  flesh  no  doubt  wants  prompt  redress ; 

It  smarts  a  little  to-day,  well  in  a  week, 

Forgotten  in  a  month  ;  or  never,  or  now,  revenge! 

But  a  wound  to  the  soul  ?    That  rankles  worse  and  worse. 

Shall  I  comfort  you,  explaining  —  "Not  this  once  1525 

But  now  it  may  be  some  five  hundred  times 

I  called  you  ruffian,  pandar,  liar  and  rogue : 

The  injury  must  be  less  by  lapse  of  time  ? 

The  wrong  is  a  wrong,  one  and  immortal  too, 

And  that  you  bore  it  those  five  hundred  times,  1530 

Let  it  rankle  unrevenged  five  hundred  years, 

Is  just  five  hundred  wrongs  the  more  and  worse! 

Men,  plagued  this  fashion,  get  to  explode  this  waji 

If  left  no  other. 

"  But  we  left  this  man 
Many  another  way,  and  there's  his  fault,"  1535 

T  is  answered  —  "  He  himself  preferred  our  arm 
O'  the  law  to  fight  his  battle  with.    No  doubt 
We  did  not  open  him  an  armory 
To  pick  and  choose  from,  use,  and  then  reject. 
He  tries  one  weapon  and  fails,  —  he  tries  the  next  1540 

And  next :  he  flourishes  wit  and  common  sense, 
They  fail  him,  —  he  plies  logic  doughtily, 
It  fails  him  too,  —  thereon,  discovers  last 
He  has  been  blind  to  the  combustibles  — 
That  all  the  while  he  is  a-glow  with  ire,  1545 

Boiling  with  irrepressible  rage,  and  so 
May  try  explosives  and  discard  cold  steel,  — 
So  hires  assassins,  plots,  plans,  executes! 
Is  this  the  honest  self-forgetting  rage 

We  are  called  to  pardon  ?    Does  the  furious  bull  1 550 

Pick  out  four  help-mates  from  the  grazing  herd 
And  journey  with  them  over  hill  and  dale 
Till  he  find  his  enemy?" 

What  rejoinder?  save 
That  friends  accept  our  bull-similitude. 

Bull-like,  —  the  indiscriminate  slaughter,  rude  1555 

And  reckless  aggravation  of  revenge. 
Were  all  i'  the  way  o'  the  brute  who  never  once 
Ceases,  amid  all  provocation  more, 
To  bear  in  mind  the  first  tormentor,  first 
Giver  o'  the  wound  that  goaded  him  to  fight :  1 560 



And,  though  a  dozen  follow  and  reinforce 

The  aggressor,  wound  in  front  and  wound  in  flank, 

Continues  undisturbedly  pursuit, 

And  only  after  prostrating  his  prize 

Turns  on  the  pettier,  makes  a  general  prey.  1565 

So  Guido  rushed  against  Violante,  first 

Author  of  all  his  wrongSy/ons  et  arigp^ 

Maloruttty  —  drops  first,  deluge  since,  —  which  done. 

He  finished  with  the  rest.    Do  you  blame  a  bull  ? 

In  truth  vou  look  as  puzzled  as  ere  I  preached!  1570 

How  is  that?    There  are  difficulties  perhaps 

On  any  supposition,  and  either  side. 

Each  party  wants  too  much,  claims  sympathy 

For  its  object  of  compassion,  more  tnan  just. 

Cry  the  wife's  friends,  "  O  the  enormous  crime  1575 

Caused  by  no  provocation  in  the  world! " 

"  Was  not  the  wife  a  little  weak?  "  —  inquire  — 

"  Punished  extravagantly,  if  you  please, 

But  meriting  a  little  punishment? 

One  treated  inconsiderately,  say,  1 580 

Rather  than  one  deserving  not  at  all 

Treatment  and  discipline  o'  the  harsher  sort?" 

No,  they  must  have  her  purity  itself. 

Quite  angel,  —  and  her  parents  angels  too 

Of  an  aged  sort,  immaculate,  word  and  deed :  1585 

At  all  events,  so  seeming,  till  the  fiend. 

Even  Guido,  by  his  folly,  forced  from  them 

The  untoward  avowal  of  the  trick  o'  the  birth. 

Which  otherwise  were  safe  and  secret  now. 

Why,  here  you  have  the  awfulest  of  crimes  1590 

For  nothing!    Hell  broke  loose  on  a  butterfly! 

A  dragon  born  of  rose-dew  and  the  moon! 

Yet  here  is  the  monster!    Why  he's  a  mere  man  — 

Bom,  bred  and  brought  up  in  the  usual  way. 

His  mother  loves  him,  still  his  brothers  stick  1595 

To  the  good  fellow  of  the  boyish  games ; 

The  Governor  of  his  town  knows  and  approves. 

The  Archbishop  of  the  place  knows  and  assists : 

Here  he  has  Cardinal  This  to  vouch  for  the  past, 

Cardinal  That  to  trust  for  the  future,  —  match  1600 

And  marriage  were  a  Cardinal's  making,  —  in  short. 

What  if  a  tragedy  be  acted  here 

Impossible  for  malice  to  improve, 

And  innocent  Guido  with  his  innocent  four 

Be  added,  all  five,  to  the  guilty  three,  1605 

S  Ftmt  *i  origa  Malorum  :  the  ibunt  and  origin  of  erflt. 


That  we  of  these  last  days  be  edified 

With  one  full  taste  o^  the  justice  of  the  world? 

The  long  and  the  short  is,  truth  seems  what  I  show :  — 

Undoubtedly  no  pains  ought  to  be  spared 

To  give  the  mob  an  inkling  of  our  lights.  1610 

It  seems  unduly  harsh  to  put  the  man 

To  the  torture,  as  I  hear  the  court  intends. 

Though  readiest  way  of  twisting  out  the  truth ; 

He  is  noble,  and  he  may  be  innocent. 

On  the  other  hand,  if  they  exempt  the  man  161 5 

(As  it  is  also  said  they  hesitate 

On  the  fair  eround,  presumptive  guilt  is  weak 

r  the  case  of  nobility  and  privilege),  — 

What  crime  that  ever  was,  ever  will  be, 

Deserves  the  torture?    Then  abolish  it!  1620 

You  see  the  reduction  ctdabsurdum^  Sirs? 

Her  Excellencr^  must  pronounce,  in  fine ! 

What,  she  prefers  going  and  joining  play? 

Her  Highness  finds  it  late,  intends  retire? 

I  am  of  their  mind :  onlv,  all  this  talk  taJked,  1625 

T  was  not  for  nothing  that  we  talked,  I  hope? 

Both  know  as  much  about  it,  now,  at  least, 

As  all  Rome :  no  particular  thanks,  I  begt 

(You  ^11  see,  I  have  not  so  advanced  m3r8el^ 

After  my  teaching  the  two  idiots  here! )  1630 




[In  Book  V.  Guido,  having  confessed  to  the  murder  under  torture,  presents  hi« 
defence,  in  the  course  of  which  he  tells  the  story  from  his  point  of  view.  He  makes 
the  most  of  the  undoubted  appearances  in  bis  favor,  namely,  the  cheat  perpetrated 
upon  him  by  Violante  and  the  elopement  of  Pompilia :  by  putting  the  worst  possible 
construction  upon  them,  he  represents  himself  as  justified  in  his  actions  because  of 
the  failure  on  the  part  of  the  so-called  parents  and  Pompilia  to  fulfil  their  share 
of  the  agreement,  and  as  goaded  on,  finally,  when  he  hears  of  the  birth  of  a  child, 
to  commit  the  murder  as  the  lawful  and  only  means  by  which  he  can  vindicate  his 
outraged  honor.] 

Thanks,  Sir,  but,  should  it  please  the  reverend  Court, 

I  feel  I  can  stand  somehow,  half  sit  down 

Without  help,  make  shift  to  even  speak,  you  see. 

Fortified  by  the  sip  of  .  .  .  whv  \  is  wine, 

Velletri,^  -^  and  not  vinegar  and  gall,  5 

So  changed  and  good  the  times  growl    Thanks,  kind  Sir! 

Oh,  but  one  sip^s  enough!    I  want  my  head 

To  save  my  neck,  there  ^s  work  awaits  me  still. 

How  cautious  and  considerate  .  .  .  aie,  aie,  aie. 

Nor  your  fault,  sweet  Sir!    Come,  you  take  to  heart  lo 

An  ordinary  matter.    Law  is  law. 

Noblemen  were  exempt,  the  vulgar  thought. 

From  racking ;  but,  since  law  thinks  otherwise, 

I  have  been  put  to  the  rack :  all  ^s  over  now, 

And  neither  wrist  —  what  men  style,  out  of  joint :  15 

If  any  harm  be,  \  is  the  shoulder-blade. 

The  left  one,  that  seems  wrong  i'  the  socket,  —  Sirs, 

Much  could  not  happen,  I  was  Quick  to  faint. 

Being  past  my  prime  of  life,  and  out  of  health. 

In  short,  I  thank  you,  —  yes,  and  mean  the  word.  20 

Needs  must  the  Court  be  slow  to  understand 

How  this  quite  novel  form  of  taking  pain. 

This  getting  tortured  merely  in  the  flesh. 

Amounts  to  almost  an  agreeable  change 

In  my  case,  me  fastidious,  plied  too  much  25 

With  opposite  treatment,  used  (forgive  the  joke) 

To  the  rasp-tooth  toying  with  this  brain  of  mine. 

And,  in  and  out  my  heart,  the  play  o^  the  probe. 


'  VelUtri:  wine  made  at  Velletri,  whose  volcanic  soil  was  especially  favorable  for  vine 


Four  years  have  I  been  operated  on 

r  the  soul,  do  you  see — its  tense  or  tremulous  part —  30 

My  self-respect,  my  care  for  a  good  name. 

Pride  in  an  old  one,  love  of  kindred — just 

A  mother,  brothers,  sisters,  and  the  like. 

That  looked  up  to  my  face  when  days  were  dim, 

And  fancied  they  found  light  there  —  no  one  spot,  35 

Foppishly  sensitive,  but  has  paid  its  pang. 

That,  and  not  this  you  now  oblige  me  with. 

That  was  the  Vigil-torment,^  if  you  please! 

The  poor  old  noble  House  that  drew  the  rags 

O'  the  FranceschinPs  once  superb  array  40 

Close  round  her,  hoped  to  slink  unchallenged  by,  — 

Pluck  off  these  !    Turn  the  drapery  inside  out 

And  teach  the  tittering  town  how  scarlet  wears! 

Show  men  the  lucklessness,  the  improvidence 

Of  the  easy-natured  Count  before  this  Count,  45 

The  father  I  have  some  slight  feeling  for. 

Who  let  the  world  slide,  nor  foresaw  that  friends 

Then  proud  to  cap  and  kiss  their  patron's  shoe. 

Would,  when  the  purse  he  left  held  spider-webs, 

Properly  push  his  child  to  wall  one  day !  50 

Mimic  the  tetchy  humor,  furtive  glance. 

And  brow  where  half  was  furious,  half  fatigued, 

O^  the  same  son  got  to  be  of  middle  age. 

Sour,  saturnine,  —  your  humble  servant  here,  — 

When  things  go  cross  and  the  young  wife,  he  finds  55 

Take  to  the  window  at  a  whistle's  bid. 

And  yet  demurs  thereon,  preposterous  fool !  — 

Whereat  the  worthies  judge  he  wants  advice 

And  beg  to  civilly  ask  what 's  evil  here. 

Perhaps  remonstrate  on  the  habit  they  deem  60 

He 's  given  unduly  to,  of  beating  her : 

.  .  .  Oh,  sure  he  beats  her — why  says  John  so  else, 

Who  is  cousin  to  George  who  is  sib  '^  to  Tecla's  self 

Who  cooks  the  meal  and  combs  the  lady's  hair? 

What !    'T  is  my  wrist  you  merely  dislocate  65 

For  the  future  when  you  mean  me  martyrdom  ? 

—  Let  the  old  mother's  economy  alone. 

How  the  brocade-strips  saved  o'  the  seamy  side 
O'  the  wedding-gown  buy  raiment  for  a  year  ? 

—  How  she  can  dress  and  dish  up  —  lordly  dish  70 
Fit  for  a  duke,  lamb's  head  and  purtenance  — 

With  her  proud  hands,  feast  household  so  a  week? 
No  word  o'  the  wine  rejoicing  God  and  man 
The  less  when  three-parts  water?    Then,  I  say, 

>  Vigil'torment :  wot  note,  I.  97a.  *  Sid  :  see  note,  II.  509. 


A  trifle  of  torture  to  the  flesh,  like  yours,  75 

While  soul  is  spared  such  foretaste  of  hell-fire, 

Is  naught.     But  I  curtail  the  catalo^e 

Through  policy,  —  a  rhetorician^s  tnck, — 

Because  I  would  reserve  some  choicer  points 

O'  the  practice,  more  exactly  parallel  80 

(Having  an  eye  to  climax)  with  what  gift, 

Eventual  grace  the  Court  may  have  in  store 

r  the  way  of  plague  — .what  crown  of  punishments. 

When  I  am  hanged  or  headed,^  time  enough 

JTo  prove  the  tenderness  of  only  that,  85 

Mere  heading,  hanging,  —  not  their  counterpart, 

Not  demonstration  public  and  precise 

That  I,  having  married  the  monerel  of  a  drab. 

Am  bound  to  grant  that  mongrel-brat,  my  wife, 

Her  mother^s  birthright-license  as  is  just,  —  90 

Let  her  sleep  undisturbed,  i^  the  family  style, 

Her  sleep  out  in  the  embraces  of  a  pnest. 

Nor  disallow  their  bastard  as  my  heir! 

Your  sole  mistake,  —  dare  I  submit  so  much 

To  the  reverend  Court  ?  —  has  been  in  all  this  pains  95 

To  make  a  stone  roll  down  hill,  —  rack  and  wrench 

And  rend  a  man  to  pieces,  all  for  what? 

Why  —  make  him  ope  mouth  in  his  own  defence. 

Show  cause  for  what  he  has  done,  the  irregular  deed, 

(Since  that  he  did  it,  scarce  dispute  can  be)  100 

And  clear  his  fame  a  little,  beside  the  luck 

Of  stopping  even  yet,  if  possible. 

Discomfort  to  his  flesh  from  noose  or  axe  — 

For  that,  out  come  the  implements  of  law ! 

May  it  content  my  lords  the  gracious  Court  105 

To  listen  only  half  so  patient-long 

As  I  will  in  that  sense  profusely  speak. 

And — fie,  they  shall  not  call  in  screws  to  help! 

I  killed  Pompilia  Franceschini,  Sirs ; 

Killed  too  the  Comparini,  husband,  wife,  no 

Who  called  themselves,  by  a  notorious  lie. 

Her  father  and  her  mother  to  ruin  me. 

There 's  the  irregular  deed :  you  want  no  more 

Than  right  interpretation  of  the  same. 

And  truth  so  far  —  am  I  to  understand?  115 

To  that  then,  with  convenient  speed,  —  because 

Now  I  consider,  —  yes,  despite  my  boast, 

There  is  an  ailing  in  this  omoplat  ^ 

May  clip  my  speech  all  too  abruptly  short. 

Whatever  the  good-will  in  me.     Now  for  truth!  120 

^  Headed :  old  form  of  beheaded.  *  Omoplat :  shoulder-blade. 


r  the  name  of  the  indivisible  Trinity! 

Will  my  lords,  in  the  plenitude  of  their  light, 

Weigh  well  that  all  this  trouble  has  come  on  me 

Through  my  persistent  treading  in  the  paths 

Where  I  was  trained  to  go,  —  wearing  that  yoke  125 

My  shoulder  was  predestined  to  receive, 

Born  to  the  hereditary  stoop  and  crease? 

Noble,  I  recognized  my  nobler  still, 

The  Church,  my  suzerain ;  nQ  mock-mistress,  she ; 

The  secular  owned  the  spiritual :  mates  of  mine  130 

Have  thrown  their  careless  hoofs  up  at  her  call         | 

"  Forsake  the  clover  and  come  drag  my  wain  I " 

There  they  go  cropping :  I  protruded  nose 

To  halter,  bent  my  back  of  docile  beast, 

And  now  am  whealed,^  one  wide  wound  all  of  me,  135 

For  being  found  at  the  eleventh  hour  o^  the  day 

Padding  the  mill-track,  not  neck-deep  in  grass : 

—  My  one  fault,  1  am  stiffened  by  my  work, 

—  My  one  reward,  I  help  the  Court  to  smile  I 

I  am  representative  of  a  great  line,  140 

One  of  the  first  of  the  old  families 

In  Arezzo,  ancientest  of  Tuscan  towns. 

When  my  worst  foe  is  fain  to  challenge  this, 

His  worst  exception  runs  —  not  first  in  rank 

But  second,  noble  in  the  next  degree  145 

Only ;  not  malice^  self  maligns  me  more. 

So,  my  lord  opposite  has  composed,  we  know, 

A  marvel  of  a  book,  sustains  the  point 

That  Francis  ^  boasts  the  primacy  ^mid  saints ; 

Yet  not  inaptly  hath  his  argument  150 

Obtained  response  from  yon  my  other  lord 

In  thesis  published  with  the  world^s  applause 

—  Rather  \  is  Dominic  •  such  post  befits : 
Why,  at  the  worst,  Francis  stays  Francis  still, 

Second  in  rank  to  Dominic  it  may  be,  155 

Still,  very  saintly,  very  like  our  Lord ; 

And  I  at  least  descend  from  Guido  once 

Homager  *  to  the  Empire,  nought  below  — 

Of  which  account  as  proof  that,  none  o^  the  line 

Having  a  single  gift  beyond  brave  blood,  160 

Or  able  to  do  ought  but  give,  give,  give 

In  blood  and  brain,  in  house  and  land  and  cash. 

Not  get  and  garner  as  the  vulgar  may, 

'^healed  :  marked  by  strokes.  *  Dominic  :    St.  Dominic,  founder  of  the 

rancis :  St.  Francis  of  Assist,  founder    order  of  Dominicans,  1170-1221. 
order  of  Franciscans^  x  183-1226.  *  Homager  :  one  who  holds  lands  subject 

to  homage. 


We  became  poor  as  Franda  or  our  Lord. 

Be  that  as  it  likes  you,  Sirs, — whenever  it  chanced  165 

Myself  grew  capable  anyway  of  remark, 

(Which  was  soon  —  penury  makes  wit  premature)    * 

This  struck  me,  I  was  poor  who  should  be  rich 

Or  pay  that  £Euilt  to  the  world  which  trifles  not 

When  lineage  lacks  the  flag  yet  lifts  the  pole :  170 

On,  therefore,  I  must  move  forthwith,  transfer 

My  stranded  sel^  bom  fish  with  gill  and  fin 

Fit  for  the  deep  sea,  now  left  flap  bare-backed 

In  slush  and  sand,  a  show  to  crawlers  vile 

Reared  of  the  low-tide  and  aright  therein.  175 

The  enviable  youth  with  the  old  name, 

Wide  chest,  stout  arms,  sound  brow  and  pricking  veins, 

A  heartftd  of  desire,  man^s  natural  load, 

A  brainfiil  of  belief,  the  noble^s  lot,  — 

All  this  life,  cramped  and  gasping,  high  and  dry  180 

r  the  wavers  retreat,  —  the  misery,  good  my  loras, 

Which  made  you  merriment  at  Rome  of  late,  — 

It  made  me  reason,  rather  —  muse,  demand 

—  Why  our  bare  dropping  palace,  in  the  street 

Where  such-an-one  whose  ^andfather  sold  tripe  185 

Was  adding  to  his  purchased  pile  a  fourth 

Tall  tower,  could  hardly  show  a  turret  sound? 

Why  Countess  Beatrice,  whose  son  I  am. 

Cowered  in  the  winter-time  as  she  spun  flax, 

Blew  on  the  earthen  basket  of  live  ash,  190 

Instead  of  jaunting  forth  in  coach  and  six 

Like  such-another  widow  who  ne'er  was  wed? 

1  asked  my  fellows,  how  came  this  about? 

"  Why,  Jack,  the  suttler's  child,  perhaps  the  campus, 

Went  to  the  wars,  fought  sturdily,  took  a  town  195 

And  got  rewarded  as  was  natural. 

She  of  the  coach  and  six  —  excuse  me  there! 

Why,  don't  you  know  the  story  of  her  friend? 

A  clown  dressed  vines  on  somebody's  estate. 

His  boy  recoiled  from  muck,  liked  Latin  more,  200 

Stuck  to  his  pen  and  got  to  be  a  priest. 

Till  one  day  .  .  .  don't  you  mind  that  telling  tract 

Against  Molinos,  the  old  Cardinal  wrote  ?^ 

He  penned  and  dropped  it  in  the  patron's  desk 

Who,  deep  in  thought  and  absent  much  of  mind,  205 

Licensed  the  thing,  allowed  it  for  his  own ; 

Quick  came  promotion, — suum  cuique^  Count! 

>  Tract  against  Molinos  :  probably  Imag-    hearsing  and  confuting  the  main  propositions 
inary.    Cardinal  Cibo,  Secretary  of  State  to    of  Molinos. 
Pope  Innocent  XI.,  wrote  in  x686  a  tract  re-        *  Snum  cuifu*  :  let  each  have  hit  own. 


Oh,  he  can  pay  for  coach  and  six,  be  sure!  ^ 

"  — Well,  let  me  go,  do  likewise :  war's  the  word  — 

That  way  the  Franceschini  worked  at  first,  210 

I  '11  take  my  turn,  try  soldiership."  —  "What,  you? 

The  eldest  son  and  heir  and  prop  o'  the  house, 

So  do  you  see  your  duty?    Here 's  your  post. 

Hard  by  the  health  and  altar.    (Roam  from  roof. 

This  youngster,  play  the  gipsy  out  of  doors,  215 

And  who  keeps  kith  and  kin  that  fall  on  us  ?) 

Stand  fast,  stick  tight,  conserve  your  gods  at  home! " 

"  —  Well  then,  the  quiet  course,  the  contrary  trade! 

We  had  a  cousin  amount  us  once  was  Pope, 

And  minor  glories  manifold.    Try  the  Church,  220 

The  tonsure,  and,  —  since  heresy 's  but  half-slain 

Even  by  the  Cardinal's  tract  he  thought  he  wrote,  — 

Have  at  Molinos! " — "  Have  at  a  fool's  head! 

You  a  priest?    How  were  marriage  possible? 

There  must  be  Franceschini  till  time  ends  —  225 

That 's  your  vocation.    Make  your  brothers  priests, 

Paul  shall  be  porporate,^  and  Girolamo  step 

Red-stockinged  in  the  presence  when  you  choose, 

But  save  one  Franceschini  for  the  age ! 

Be  not  the  vine  but  dig  and  dung  its  root,  230 

Be  not  a  priest  but  gird  up  priesthood's  loins, 

With  one  foot  in  Arezzo  stnde  to  Rome, 

Spend  yourself  there  and  brine  the  purchase  back! 

Go  hence  to  Rome,  be  guided!" 

So  I  was. 
I  turned  alike  from  the  hill-side  zig-zag  thread  235 

Of  way  to  the  table-land  a  soldier  takes. 
Alike  from  the  low-lying  pasture-place 
Where  churchmen  graze,  recline  and  ruminate, 
—  Ventured  to  mount  no  platform  like  my  lords 
Who  judge  the  world,  bear  brain  I  dare  not  brag —  240 

But  stationed  me,  might  thus  the  expression  serve, 
As  who  should  fetch  and  carry,  come  and  go. 
Meddle  and  make  i'  the  cause  my  lords  love  most  — 
The  public  weal,  which  hangs  to  the  law,  which  holds 
By  the  Church,  which  happens  to  be  through  God  himself.    245 
Humbly  I  helped  the  Church  till  here  I  stand,  — 
Or  would  stand  but  for  the  omoplat,  you  see ! 
Bidden  qualify  for  Rome,  I,  having  a  field, 
Went,  sold  it,  laid  the  sum  at  Peter's  foot : 
Which  means —  I  settled  home-accounts  with  speed,  250 

Set  apart  just  a  modicum  should  suffice 

>  PorforaU  :  wearing  purple,  the  color  of  a  cardinal. 


To  hold  the  villa^s  head  above  the  waves 

Of  weed  inundating  its  oil  and  wine, 

And  prop  roof,  stanchion  wall  o^  the  palace  so 

As  to  keep  breath  i^  the  body,  out  of  heart  255 

Amid  the  advance  of  neighboring  loftiness  — 

(People  like  building  where  they  used  to  beg)  — 

Till  succored  one  day,  —  shared  the  residue 

Between  my  mother  and  brothers  and  sisters  there^ 

Black-eyed  babe  Donna  This  and  Donna  That,  260 

As  near  to  starving  as  might  decently  be, 

—  Left  myself  journey-charges,  change  of  suit, 
A  purse  to  put  i'  the  pocket  of  the  Groom ' 

O^  the  Chamber  of  the  patron,  and  a  glove 

With  a  ring  to  it  for  the  digits  of  the  niece  265 

Sure  to  be  helpful  in  his  household,  —  then 

Started  for  Rome,  and  led  the  life  prescribed. 

Close  to  the  Church,  though  clean  of  it,  I  assumed 

Three  or  four  orders  of  no  consequence, 

—  They  cast  out  evil  spirits  and  exorcise,  270 
For  example ;  bind  a  man  to  nothing  more. 

Give  clerical  savor  to  his  layman^s-salt. 

Facilitate  his  claim  to  loaf  and  fish 

Should  miracle  leave,  beyond  what  feeds  the  flock, 

Fragments  to  brim  the  basket  of  a  friend  —  275 

While,  for  the  world^s  sake,  I  rode,  danced  and  gamed, 

Quitted  me  like  a  courtier,  measured  mine 

With  whatsoever  blade  had  fame  in  fence, 

—  Ready  to  let  the  basket  go  its  round 

Even  though  my  turn  was  come  to  help  myself  280 

Should  Dives  count  on  me  at  dinner-time 

As  just  the  understander  of  a  joke 

And  not  immoderate  in  repartee. 

Utrique  sic  paratus}^  Sirs,  I  said, 

"  Here,"  (in  the  fortitude  of  years  fifteen,  285 

So  good  a  pedagogue  is  penury) 

"Here  wait,  do  service,  —  serving  and  to  serve! 

And,  in  due  time,  I  nowise  doubt  at  all. 

The  recognition  of  my  service  comes. 

Next  year  I  ^m  only  sixteen.    I  can  wait."  290 

I  waited  thirty  years,  may  it  please  the  Court : 

Saw  meanwhile  many  a  denizen  o^  the  dung 

Hop,  skip,  jump  o^er  my  shoulder,  make  him  wings 

And  fly  aloft,  —  succeed,  in  the  usual  phrase. 

Every  one  soon  or  late  comes  round  by  Rome :  295 

Stand  still  here,  you  Ul  see  all  in  turn  succeed. 

^  Uiriqut  sic  Paratut :  thus  prepared  for  either. 


Why,  look  you,  so  and  so,  the  phjrsician  here> 

My  father^s  lacquey^s  son  we  sent  to  school, 

Doctored  and  dosed  this  Eminence  and  that. 

Salved  the  last  Pope  his  certain  obstinate  sore,  300 

Soon  bought  land  as  became  him,  names  it  now : 

I  grasp  bell  at  his  griffin-guarded  gate. 

Traverse  the  half-mile  avenue,  —  a  term,* 

A  cypress,  and  a  statue,  three  and  three,  — 

Deliver  message  from  mjr  Monsignor,  305 

With  varletnr  at  lounge  1'  the  vestibule 

I  'm  barred  from  who  bear  mud  upon  my  shoe. 

My  father's  chaplain's  nephew,  Chamberlain,  — 

Nothing  less,  please  you!  —  courteous  all  the  same, 

—  He  does  not  see  me  though  I  wait  an  hour  310 

At  his  staircase-landing  'twixt  the  brace  of  busts, 

A  noseless  Sylla,  Marius  ^  maimed  to  match, 

My  father  gave  him  for  a  hexastich  • 

Made  on  my  birthday, — but  he  sends  me  down. 

To  make  amends,  that  relic  I  prize  most  —  315 

The  unburnt  end  o'  the  veiy  candle,  Sirs, 

Purfled*  with  paint  so  prettily  round  and  round, 

He  carried  in  such  state  last  Peter's-day,  — 

In  token  I,  his  gentleman  and  squire. 

Had  held  the  bridle,  walked  his  managed  mule  320 

Without  a  tittup  '^  the  procession  through. 

Nay,  the  official,  —  one  you  know,  sweet  lords !  — 

Who  drew  the  warrant  for  my  transfer  late 

To  the  New  Prisons'  from  Tordinona,^ — he 

Graciously  had  remembrance  —  "Francesc  .  .  .ha?  325 

His  sire,  now  —  how  a  thing  shall  come  about!  — 

Paid  me  a  dozen  florins  above  the  fee. 

For  drawing  deftly  up  a  deed  of  sale 

When  troubles  fell  so  thick  on  him,  good  heart. 

And  I  was  prompt  and  pushing !    By  all  means!  330 

At  the  New  Prisons  be  it  his  son  shall  lie, — 

Anything  for  an  old  friend! "  and  thereat 

Signed  name  with  triple  flourish  underneath. 

These  were  my  fellows,  such  their  fortunes  now. 

While  I  —  kept  fasts  and  feasts  innumerable,  335 

Matins  and  vespers,  functions  to  no  end 

*  Term:  a  figure  of  Terminus,  the  god  of  «  New  Prisons  :  built  by  Innocent  X., 
boundaries,  consisting  of  a  bust  ending  in  a  were  the  first  prisons  on  the  cellular  system 
rectangular  pedestal.  in  Europe. 

*  Sy.'/a^  Marttis  :  Roman  generals.  ^  Tordinona  :  Tower  of  Nona,  used  as  a 
'  Hexastich  :  stanza  of  six  lines.  prison,  and   destroyed    in    1690  ;    therefore 

*  Purfted :  decorated.  Guido  could  not  have  been  imprisoned  in  it. 
B  Tittup  :  a  skittish  prance  or  cmler. 


r  the  train  of  Monsignor  and  Eminence, 

As  gentleman-squire,  and  for  my  zeaPs  reward 

Have  rarely  missed  a  place  at  the  table-foot 

Except  when  some  Ambassador,  or  such  like,  340 

Brought  his  own  people.     Brief,  one  day  I  felt 

The  tick  of  time  inside  me,  turning-point 

And  slight  sense  there  was  now  enough  of  this : 

That  I  was  near  my  seventh  climacteric. 

Hard  upon,  if  not  over,  the  middle  life,  345 

And  although  fed  by  the  east-wind,  fulsome-fine 

With  foretaste  of  the  Land  of  Promise,  still 

My  gorge  gave  symptom  it  might  play  me  false ; 

Better  not  press  it  mrther,  —  be  content 

With  livine  and  dying  only  a  nobleman,  350 

Who  merely  had  a  father  great  and  rich. 

Who  simply  had  one  greater  and  richer  yet, 

And  so  on  back  and  back  till  first  and  best 

Began  i'  the  night ;  I  finish  in  the  day. 

"  The  mother  must  be  getting  old,"  I  said ;  355 

"  The  sisters  are  well  wedded  away,  our  name 

Can  manage  to  pass  a  sister  off,  at  need. 

And  do  for  dowry ;  both  my  brothers  thrive  — 

Regular  priests  they  are,  nor,  bat-like,  'bide 

'Twixt  flesh  and  fowl  with  neither  privilege.  360 

My  spare  revenue  must  keep  me  and  mine. 

I  am  tired :  Arezzo's  air  is  good  to  breathe ; 

Vittiano,  —  one  limes  ^  flocks  of  thrushes  there ; 

A  leathern  coat  costs  little  and  lasts  long : 

Let  me  bid  hope  good-bye,  content  at  home ! ''  365 

Thus,  one  day,  1  disbosomed  me  and  bowed. 

Whereat  began  the  little  buzz  and  thrill 

O'  the  gazers  round  me ;  each  face  brightened  up : 

As  when  at  your  Casino,  deep  in  dawn, 

A  gamester  says  at  last,  "  I  play  no  more,  370 

Forego  gain,  acquiesce  in  loss,  withdraw 

Anyhow : "  and  the  watchers  of  his  ways, 

A  trifle  struck  compunctious  at  the  word. 

Yet  sensible  of  relief,  breathe  free  once  more. 

Break  up  the  ring,  venture  polite  advice  —  375 

"  How,  Sir?     So  scant  of  heart  and  hope  indeed? 

Retire  with  neither  cross  nor  pile  from  play  ?  — 

So  incurious,  so  short-casting?  —  give  your  chance 

To  a  younger,  stronger,  bolder  spirit  belike. 

Just  when  luck  turns  and  the  fine  throw  sweeps  all  ?  "  380 

Such  was  the  chorus :  and  its  good-will  meant  — 

"  See  that  the  loser  leave  door  handsomely  I 

'  Limes  :  ensnares. 


There  ^s  an  ill  look, — it  ^s  sinister,  spoils  sport. 

When  an  old  bruised  and  battered  year-by-year 

Fighter  with  fortune,  not  a  penny  in  poke,  385 

Reels  down  the  steps  of  our  estaolislunent 

And  staggers  on  broad  daylight  and  the  world, 

In  shagrag  beard  and  doleful  doublet,  drops 

And  breaks  his  heart  on  the  outside :  people  prate 

<  Such  is  the  profit  of  a  trip  upstairs!*  390 

Contrive  he  sidle  forth,  baulked  of  the  blow 

Best  dealt  by  way  of  moral,  bidding  down 

No  curse  but  blessings  rather  on  our  heads 

For  some  poor  prize  he  bears  at  tattered  breast, 

Some  palpable  sort  of  kind  of  good  to  set  395 

Over  and  against  the  grievance :  give  him  quick!  ^ 

Whereon  protested  Paul,  "Go  hang  yourselves! 

Leave  him  to  me.    Count  Guido  and  brother  of  mine, 

A  word  in  your  ear!    Take  courage,  since  &int  heart 

Ne^er  won  .  .  .  aha,  fair  lady,  donH  men  say?  400 

There 's  a  sorsf^  there 's  a  right  Virgilian  dip!  * 

Do  you  see  the  happiness  o^  the  hint?    At  worst, 

If  the  Church  want  no  more  of  you,  the  Court 

No  more,  and  the  Camp  as  little,  the  ingrates,  —  come. 

Count  you  are  counted :  still  you  Ve  coat  to  back,  405 

Not  cloth  of  eold  and  tissue,  as  we  hoped, 

But  c]oth  with  sparks  and  spangles  on  its  frieze 

From  Camp,  Court,  Church,  enough  to  make  a  shine, 

Entitle  you  to  carry  home  a  wife 

With  the  proper  dowry,  let  the  worst  betide!  410 

Why,  it  was  just  a  wife  you  meant  to  take!** 

Now,  PauPs  advice  was  weighty :  priests  should  know : 

And  Paul  apprised  me,  ere  the  week  was  out, 

That  Pietro  and  Violante,  the  easy  pair, 

The  cits  enough,  with  stomach  to  be  more,  415 

Had  just  the  daughter  and  exact  the  sum 

To  truck  «  for  the  quality  of  myself:  "  She  *s  youn^ 

Pretty  and  rich :  you  *re  noble,  classic,  choice. 

Is  it  to  be  a  match ? **    "A  match,**  said  I. 

Done !    He  proposed  all,  I  accepted  all,  420 

And  we  performed  all.    So  I  said  and  did 

Simply.    As  simply  followed,  not  at  first 

But  with  the  outbreak  of  misfortune,  still 

One  comment  on  the  saying  and  doing  —  "What? 

No  blush  at  the  avowal  you  dared  buy  425 

^  S*rt :  lot  *  Truck  :  exchange. 

>  Thfrt's  «  ri^i  VirfOmn  d^.*  tlie 
Romans  used  to  open  their  Virgil  at  ran<loni 
'or  fuidancc 


A  girl  of  age  beseems  your  granddaughter, 
Like  ox  or  ass ?    Are  nesh  and  blooda  ware ? 
Are  heart  and  soul  a  chattel  ?  ^* 

Softly,  Sirs! 
Will  the  Court  of  its  charity  teach  poor  me 
Anxious  to  learn,  of  anv  way  i^  the  world,  430 

Allowed  by  custom  and  convenience,  save 
This  same  which,  taught  from  my  youth  up,  I  trod? 
Take  me  along  with  you ;  where  was  the  wrong  step? 
If  what  I  gave  in  barter,  style  and  state 
And  all  that  hangs  to  Franceschinihood,  435 

Were  worthless, — why,  society  goes  to  fi;round, 
Its  rules  are  idiot Vrambling.     Honor  of  birth, — 
If  that  thing  has  no  value,  cannot  buy 
Something  with  value  of  another  sort. 

You  Ve  no  reward  nor  punishment  to  ^ive  440 

V  the  giving  or  the  taking  honor ;  straight 
Your  social  fabric,  pinnacle  to  base. 
Comes  down  a-clatter,  like  a  house  of  cards. 
Get  honor,  and  keep  honor  free  from  flaw, 
Aim  at  still  higher  honor,  —  gabble  o^  the  goose!  445 

Go  bid  a  second  blockhead  like  myself 
Spend  fifty  years  in  guarding  bubbles  of  breath, 
Soapsuds  with  air  i^  the  belly,  gilded  brave, 
Guarded  and  guided,  all  to  break  at  touch 
O^  the  first  young  girPs  hand  and  first  old  fooPs  purse!        450 
All  my  privation  and  endurance,  all 
Love,  lovalty  and  labor  dared  and  did, 
Fiddle-ae-dee!  —  why,  doer  and  darer  both,  — 
Count  Guido  Franceschini  had  hit  the  mark 
Far  better,  spent  his  life  with  more  effect,  455 

As  a  dancer  or  a  prizer,  trades  that  pay! 
On  the  other  hand,  bid  this  buffoonery  cease. 
Admit  that  honor  is  a  privilege. 
The  question  follows,  privilege  worth  what? 
Why,  worth  the  market-price, —  now  up,  now  down,  460 

Just  so  with  this  as  with  all  other  ware : 
Therefore  essay  the  market,  sell  your  name, 
Style  and  condition  to  who  buys  them  best! 
"  Does  my  name  purchase,"  had  I  dared  inquire, 
"Your  niece,  my  lord?  "  there  would  have  been  rebuff        465 
Though  courtesy,  your  Lordship  cannot  else  — 
"  Not  altogether!    Rank  for  rank  may  stand : 
But  I  have  wealth  beside,  you  —  poverty ; 
Your  scale  flies  up  there :  Did  a  second  bid 
Rank  too  and  wealth  too!"    Reasoned  like  yourself!  470 

But  was  it  to  you  I  went  with  goods  to  sell? 


This  time  \  was  my  scale  quietly  kissed  the  ground. 

Mere  rank  against  mere  wealth  —  some  youth  beside, 

Some  beauty  too,  thrown  into  the  bargain,  just 

As  the  buver  likes  or  lets  alone.    I  thou|;ht  475 

To  deal  o^  the  square :  others  find  fault,  it  seems : 

The  thing  is,  those  my  offer  most  concerned, 

Pietro,  Violante,  cried  they  fair  or  foul? 

What  did  they  make  o'  the  terms?    Preposterous  terms? 

Why  then  accede  so  promptly,  close  with  such  480 

Nor  take  a  minute  to  chaffer?    Bargain  struck. 

They  straight  grew  bilious,  wished  their  money  back, 

Repented  them,  no  doubt :  why,  so  did  I, 

So  did  your  Lordship,  if  town-talk  be  true, 

Of  paying  a  full  farm^s  worth  for  that  piece  485 

By  Pietro  of  Cortona  ^ — probably 

His  scholar  Giro  Ferri*  may  have  retouched — 

You  caring  more  for  color  than  design  — 

Getting  a  little  tired  of  cupids  too. 

That's  incident  to  all  the  folk  who  buy!  490 

I  am  charged,  I  know,  with  gilding  fact  by  fraud ; 

I  falsified  and  fabricated,  wrote 

Myself  down  roughly  richer  than  I  prove. 

Rendered  a  wrong  revenue,  —  grant  it  aU! 

Mere  grace,  mere  coquetry  such  fraud,  I  say :  495 

A  flourish  round  the  figures  of  a  sum 

For  fashion's  sake,  that  deceives  nobody. 

The  veritable  backbone,  understood 

Essence  of  this  same  bargain,  blank  and  bare. 

Being  the  exchange  of  quality  for  wealth,  —  500 

What  may  such  fancy-flights  be  ?    Flecks  of  oil 

Flirted  by  chapmen  where  plain  dealing  grates. 

I  may  have  dripped  a  drop —  "My  name  I  sell ; 

Not  but  that  I  too  boast  my  wealth" — as  they, 

"  —  We  bring  you  riches ;  still  our  ancestor  505 

Was  hardly  the  rapscallion  folk  saw  flogged. 

But  heir  to  we  know  who,  were  rights  of  force! " 

They  knew  and  I  knew  where  the  backbone  lurked 

r  the  writhings  of  the  bargain,  lords,  believe! 

I  paid  down  all  engaged  for,  to  a  doit,  510 

Delivered  them  just  that  which,  their  life  long, 

They  hungered  in  the  hearts  of  them  to  gain  — 

Incorporation  with  nobility  thus 

In  word  and  deed :  for  that  they  gave  me  wealth. 

But  when  they  came  to  try  their  gain,  my  gift,  515 

Quit  Rome  and  qualify  for  Arezzo,  take 

"^  Pietro  of  Cortona  :  mainly  a  scenic  and         *  Ciro  Ferri:    a  pupil  of  Q>rtona  who 
fresco  painter,  1596-1669.  imitated  his  master,  X634-Z689. 


The  tone  o^  the  new  sphere  that  absorbed  the  old, 

Put  away  gossip  Tack  and  goody  Joan 

And  go  become  familiar  with  the  Great, 

Greatness  to  touch  and  taste  and  handle  now,  —  520 

Why  then,  —  they  found  that  all  was  vanity, 

Vexation,  and  what  Solomon  describes! 

The  old  abundant  city-fare  was  best. 

The  kindly  warmth  o^  the  commons,  the  ^lad  dap 

Of  the  equal  on  the  shoulder,  the  frank  gnn  525 

Of  the  underling  at  all  so  many  spoons 

Fire-new  at  neighborly  treat,  —  best,  best  and  best 

Beyond  compare !  —  down  to  the  loll  itself 

O'  the  pot-house  settle,  —  better  such  a' bench 

Than  the  stiff  crucifixion  by  my  dais  530 

Under  the  piecemeal  damask  canopy 

With  the  coroneted  coat  of  arms  a-top! 

Poverty  and  privation  for  pride^s  sake. 

All  they  engaged  to  easily  brave  and  bear,  — 

With  the  fit  upon  them  and  their  brains  a-work,  —  535 

Proved  unendurable  to  the  sobered  sots. 

A  banished  prince,  now,  will  exude  a  juice 

And  salamander-like  support  the  flame : 

He  dines  on  chestnuts,  chucks  the  husks  to  help 

The  broil  o'  the  brazier,  pays  the  due  baioc,^  540 

Goes  off  light-hearted :  his  grimace  begins 

At  the  funny  humors  of  the  christening-feast 

Of  friend  the  money-lender,  —  then  he  *s  touched 

By  the  flame  and  frizzles  at  the  babe  to  kiss ! 

Here  was  the  converse  trial,  opposite  mind :  545 

Here  did  a  petty  nature  split  on  rock 

Of  vulgar  wants  predestinate  for  such  — 

One  dish  at  supper  and  weak  wine  to  boot ! 

The  prince  had  grinned  and  borne :  the  citizen  shrieked, 

Summoned  the  neighborhood  to  attest  the  wrong,  550 

Made  noisy  protest  he  was  murdered,  —  stoned 

And  burned  and  drowned  and  hanged,  —  then  broke  away, 

He  and  his  wife,  to  tell  their  Rome  the  rest. 

And  this  you  admire,  you  men  o'  the  world,  my  lords  ? 

This  moves  compassion,  makes  you  doubt  my  faith?  555 

Why,  I  appeal  to  .  .  .  sun  and  moon?    Not  I! 

Rather  to  Plautus,*  Terence,*  Boccaccio^s  Book,* 

My  townsman,  frank  Ser  Franco's  merry  Tales,  —  * 

*  Baioc  :  about  a  halfpenny.  *  Boccaccio* s  Book  :  "  Decameron  "  (1313- 

*  Plautus  :  a  famous  comic  poet  of  Rome,    1375). 

died  184  B.C.  »  Ser  Franco :   apparently  Franco    Sac- 

>  Terenct :  celebrated  dramatist,  writer  of    chetti,  who  lived  about  Z335-Z410,  author  of 

comedies,  died  159  B.C.  stories  in  the  manner  of  Boccaccio.    Petrarch^ 


To  all  who  strip  a  vizard  from  a  face, 

A  body  from  its  padding,  and  a  soul  560 

From  froth  and  ignorance  it  stvles  itself  — 

If  this  be  other  than  the  dail^  nap 

Of  purblind  greed  that  dog-like  still  drops  boncy 

Grasps  shadow,  and  then  howls  the  case  is  hard! 

So  much  for  them  so  far :  now  for  m^lf,  565 

My  profit  or  loss  i^  the  matter :  mamed  am  I : 

Text  whereon  friendly  censors  burst  to  preach. 

Ay,  at  Rome  even,  long  ere  I  was  left 

To  regulate  her  life  for  my  young  bride 

Alone  at  Arezzo,  friendliness  outbroke  570 

(Sifting  my  future  to  predict  its  fault) 

*<  Purchase  and  sale  being  thus  so  plain  a  point. 

How  of  a  certain  soul  bound  up,  may-be, 

r  the  barter  with  the  body  and  money-bags? 

From  the  bride's  soul  what  is  it  you  expect?"  575 

Why,  loyalty  and  obedience,  —  wish  and  will 

To  settle  and  suit  her  fresh  and  plastic  mind 

To  the  novel,  not  disadvantageous  mould! 

Father  and  mother  shall  the  woman  leave, 

Cleave  to  the  husband,  be  it  for  weal  or  woe :  580 

There  is  the  law :  what  sets  this  law  aside 

In  my  particular  case?    My  friends  submit 

"Guide,  guardian,  benefactor, — fee,  few,  fiim, 

The  fact  is  you  are  forty-five  years  old, 

Nor  very  comely  even  for  that  age :  585 

Girls  must  have  boys."    Why,  let  girls  say  so  then, 

Nor  call  the  boys  and  men,  who  say  the  same. 

Brute  this  and  beast  the  other  as  they  do! 

Come,  cards  on  table !    When  you  chaunt  us  next 

Epithalamium  full  to  overflow  590 

With  praise  and  glory  of  white  womanhood, 

The  chaste  and  pure —  troll  no  such  lies  o'er  lip! 

Put  in  their  stead  a  crudity  or  two. 

Such  short  and  simple  statement  of  the  case 

As  youth  chalks  on  our  walls  at  spring  of  year!  595 

No!  I  shall  still  think  nobler  of  the  sex. 

Believe  a  woman  still  may  take  a  man 

For  the  short  period  that  his  soul  wears  flesh. 

And,  for  the  soul's  sake,  understand  the  fault 

Of  armor  frayed  by  fighting.     Tush,  it  tempts  600 

One's  tongue  too  much !     1  '11  say —  the  law 's  the  law : 

With  a  wife  I  look  to  find  all  wifeliness, 

a  the  term  "  townsman "  better  applies    Florentine),  wrote  nothing  that  can  be  de* 
Sacchetti,  though  a  Tuscan,  was  a    scribed  as  "  merry  tales." 


As  when  I  buy,  timber  and  twig,  a  tree  — 

I  buy  the  song  o^  the  nightingsue  inside. 

Such  was  the  pact :  Pompilia  from  the  first  605 

Broke  it,  refused  from  Ae  beginning  day 

Either  in  body  or  soul  to  cleave  to  mine, 

And  published  it  forthwith  to  all  the  world. 

No  rupture,  —  you  must  join  ere  you  can  break,  — 

Before  we  had  cohabited  a  month  610 

She  found  I  was  a  devil  and  no  man,  — 

Made  common  cause  with  those  who  found  as  much, 

Her  parents,  Pietro  and  Violante, — moved 

Heaven  and  earth  to  the  rescue  of  all  three. 

In  four  months'  time,  the  time  o'  the  parents'  stay,  615 

Arezzo  was  a-rin^ne,  bells  in  a  blaze. 

With  the  unimaginable  story  rife 

r  the  mouth  of  man,  woman  and  child  —  to-wit 

My  misdemeanor.    First  the  lighter  side. 

Ludicrous  face  of  things,  —  how  very  poor  620 

The  Franceschini  had  become  at  last. 

The  meanness  and  the  misery  of  each  shift 

To  save  a  soldo,^  stretch  and  make  ends  meet. 

Next,  the  more  hateful  aspect,  —  how  myself 

With  cruelty  beyond  Caligula's  ^  625 

Had  stripped  and  beaten,  robbed  and  murdered  them, 

The  good  old  couple,  I  decoyed,  abused. 

Plundered  and  then  cast  out,  and  happily  so. 

Since, — in  due  course  the  abominable  comes,  — 

Woe  worth  the  poor  young  wife  left  lonely  here!  630 

Repugnant  in  my  person  as  my  mind, 

I  sought,  — was  ever  heard  of  such  revenge? 

—  To  lure  and  bind  her  to  so  cursed  a  couch. 

Such  co-embrace  with  sulphur,  snake  and  toad. 

That  she  was  fain  to  rush  forth,  call  the  stones  635 

O'  the  common  street  to  save  her,  not  from  hate 

Of  mine  merely,  but  .  .  .  must  I  burn  my  lips 

With  the  blister  of  the  lie?  .  .  .  the  satyr-love 

Of  whom  but  my  own  brother,  the  young  priest. 

Too  long  enforced  to  lenten  fare  belike,  640 

Now  tempted  by  the  morsel  tossed  him  full 

r  the  trencher  where  lay  bread  and  herbs  at  best. 

Mark,  this  yourselves  say!  —  this,  none  disallows. 

Was  charged  to  me  by  the  universal  voice 

At  the  instigation  of  my  four-months'  wife !  —  645 

And  then  you  ask  "  Such  charges  so  preferred, 

^  Soldo  :  about  a  penny.  *  Caligula  :  a  Roman  emperor,  celebrated 

for  his  cruelties,  murdered  a.d.  41. 


(Truly  or  fialsely,  here  concerns  us  not) 

Pricked  you  to  punish  now  if  not  before?  — 

Did  not  the  harshness  double  itself,  the  hate 

Harden  ?  "    I  answer  "  Have  it  your  way  and  will ! "  650 

Say  my  resentment  grew  apac« :  what  tnen  ? 

Do  you  cry  out  on  the  marvel?    When  I  find 

That  pure  smooth  egg  which,  laid  within  my  nest, 

Could  not  but  hatch  a  comfort  to  us  all, 

Issues  a  cockatrice  for  me  and  mine,  655 

Do  you  stare  to  see  me  stamp  on  it  ?    Swans  are  soft : 

Is  it  not  clear  that  she  you  call  my  wife, 

That  any  wife  of  any  husband,  caught 

Whettine  a  sting  like  this  against  his  breast,  — 

Speckled  with  fragments  of  the  fresh-broke  shell,  660 

Married  a  month  and  making  outcry  thus,  — 

Proves  a  plague-prodigy  to  God  and  man? 

She  married :  what  was  it  she  married  for. 

Counted  upon  and  meant  to  meet  thereby? 

"  Love  "  suggests  some  one,  "  love,  a  little  word  665 

Whereof  wehave  not  heard  one  syllable." 

So,  the  Pompilia,  child,  girl,  wife,  in  one. 

Wanted  the  beating  pulse,  the  rolling  eye, 

The  frantic  |;esture,  the  devotion  due 

From  Thyrsis  ^  to  Neaera!  ^    Guido's  love —  670 

Why  not  Proven9al  roses  in  his  shoe. 

Plume  to  his  cap,  and  trio  of  guitars 

At  casement,  with  a  bravo  close  beside? 

Good  things  all  these  are,  clearly  claimable 

When  the  fit  price  is  paid  the  proper  way.  675 

Had  it  been  some  friend's  wife,  now,  threw  her  fan 

At  my  foot,  with  just  this  pretty  scrap  attached, 

"Shame,  death,  damnation — fall  these  as  they  may. 

So  I  find  you,  for  a  minute!    Come  this  eve! " 

—  Why,  at  such  sweet  self-sacrifice,  —  who  knows?  680 

I  might  have  fired  up,  found  me  at  my  post. 

Ardent  from  head  to  heel,  nor  feared  catch  cough. 

Nay,  had  some  other  friend's  .  .  .  say,  daughter,  tripped 

Upstairs  and  tumbled  fiat  and  frank  on  me. 

Bareheaded  and  barefooted,  with  loose  hair  685 

And  garments  all  at  large,  —  cried  "  Take  me  thus ! 

Duke  So-and-So,  the  greatest  man  in  Rome  — 

To  escape  his  hand  and  heart  have  I  broke  bounds. 

Traversed  the  town  and  reached  you! " —  then,  indeed. 

The  lady  had  not  reached  a  man  of  ice !  690 

I  would  have  rummaged,  ransacked  at  the  word 

1  Thyrsis  :  a  young  Arcadian  shepherd  in         ^  Neara  :  a  country  maid  mentioned  in 
Virgil's  Seventh  Eclogue.  Virgil's  Eclogues  III.  and  V. 


Those  old  odd  corners  of  an  empty  heart 

For  remnants  of  dim  love  the  long  disused, 

And  dusty  crumblings  of  romance!    But  here, 

We  talk  of  just  a  marriage,  if  you  please  —  695 

The  every-day  conditions  and  no  more ; 

Where  do  these  bind  me  to  bestow  one  drop 

Of  blood  shall  dye  my  wife's  true-love-knot  pink? 

Pompilia  was  no  pigeon,  Venus'  pet. 

That  shuffled  from  between  her  pressing  paps  700 

To  sit  on  my  rough  shoulder,  —  but  a  hawk, 

I  bought  at  a  hawk's  price  and  carried  home 

To  do  hawk's  service  —  at  the  Rotunda,  say, 

Where,  six  o'  the  callow  nestlings  in  a  row. 

You  pick  and  choose  and  pay  the  price  for  such.  705 

I  have  paid  my  pound,  await  my  penny's  worth. 

So,  hoodwink,  starve  and  properly  train  my  bird. 

And,  should  she  prove  a  haggard,  —  twist  ner  neck! 

Did  I  not  pay  my  name  and  style,  my  hope 

And  trust,  my  all?    Through  spending  these  amiss  710 

I  am  here!    'T  is  scarce  the  gravity  or  the  Court 

Will  blame  me  that  I  never  piped  a  tune, 

Treated  my  falcon-gentle  like  my  finch. 

The  obligation  I  incurred  was  just 

To  practise  mastery,  prove  my  mastership :  —  715 

Pompilia's  duty  was  —  submit  herself. 

Afford  me  pleasure,  perhaps  cure  my  bile. 

Am  I  to  teach  my  lords  what  marriage  means. 

What  God  ordains  thereby  and  man  fulfils 

Who,  docile  to  the  dictate,  treads  the  house?  720 

My  lords  have  chosen  the  happier  part  with  Paul 

And  neither  marry  nor  burn, — yet  priestliness 

Can  find  a  parallel  to  the  marriage-bond 

In  its  own  blessed  special  ordinance 

Whereof  indeed  was  marriage  made  the  type :  725 

The  Church  may  show  her  insubordinate, 

As  marriage  her  refractory.    How  of  the  Monk 

Who  finds  the  claustral  regimen  too  sharp 

After  the  first  month's  essay?    What 's  the  mode 

With  the  Deacon  who  supports  indifferently  730 

The  rod  o'  the  Bishop  when  he  tastes  its  smart 

Full  four  weeks  ?    Do  you  straightway  slacken  hold 

Of  the  innocents,  the  all-unwary  ones 

Who,  eager  to  profess,  mistook  their  mind  ?  — 

Remit  a  fast-day's  rigor  to  the  Monk  735 

Who  fancied  Francis'  manna  ^  meant  roast  quails,  — 

Concede  the  Deacon  sweet  society, 

i  Francis*  manna  :  the  Franciscans  depended  upon  alms  for  their  food  and  llxVck^. 


He  never  thought  the  Levite-rule^  renounced, — 

Or  rather  prescribe  short  chain  and  sharp  scourge 

Corrective  of  such  peccant  humors  ?    This  —  740 

I  take  to  be  the  Churches  mode,  and  mine. 

If  I  was  over-harsh,  —  the  worse  i'  the  wife 

Who  did  not  win  from  harshness  as  she  ought^ 

Wanted  the  patience  and  persuasion,  lore 

Of  love,  should  cure  me  and  console  herself.  745 

Put  case  that  I  mishandle,  flurry  and  fright 

My  hawk  through  clumsiness  in  sportsmanship, 

Twitch  out  five  pens  where  plucking  one  would  serve — 

What,  shall  she  bite  and  claw  to  mend  the  case? 

And,  if  you  find  I  pluck  five  more  for  that,  750 

Shall  you  weep  " How  he  roughs  the  turtle  there?" 

Such  was  the  starting ;  now  of  the  further  step.         ;    i 

In  lieu  of  taking  penance  in  good  part, 

The  Monk,  with  hue  and  cry,  summons  a  mob 

To  make  a  bonfire  of  the  convent,  say,  —  755 

And  the  Deacon's  pretty  piece  of  virtue  Tsave 

The  ears  o'  the  Court !  I  try  to  save  my  nead) 

Instructed  by  the  ingenuous  postulant. 

Taxes  the  Bishop  with  adultery,  (mud 

Needs  must  pair  off  with  mud,  and  filth  with  filth)  —  760 

Such  being  my  next  experience.     Who  knows  not  — 

The  couple,  father  and  mother  of  my  wife. 

Returned  to  Rome,  published  before  my  lords, 

Put  into  print,  made  circulate  far  and  wide 

That  they  had  cheated  me  who  cheated  them  ?  765 

Pompilia,  I  supposed  their  daughter,  drew 

Breath  first  'mid  Rome's  worst  rankness,  through  the  deed 

Of  a  drab  and  a  rogue,  was  by-blow  bastard-babe 

Of  a  nameless  strumpet,  passed  off,  palmed  on  me 

As  the  daughter  with  the  dowry.     Daughter?    Dirt  770 

O'  the  kennel!    Dowry?    Dust  o'  the  street!    Nought  more, 

Nought  less,  nought  else  but  —  oh  —  ah —  assuredly 

A  Franceschini  and  my  very  wife! 

Now  take  this  charge  as  you  will,  for  false  or  true,  — 

This  charge,  preferred  before  your  very  selves  775 

Who  judge  me  now,  —  I  pray  you,  adjudge  again. 

Classing  it  with  the  cheats  or  with  the  lies. 

By  which  category  I  suffer  most ! 

But  of  their  reckoning,  theirs  who  dealt  with  me 

In  either  fashion,  —  I  reserve  my  word,  780 

Justify  that  in  its  place ;  I  am  now  to  say, 

Whichever  point  o'  the  charge  might  poison  most, 

*  Levite-rule  =  priest-rule. 


Pompilia^s  duty  was  no  doubtful  one. 

You  put  the  protestation  in  her  mouth 

"  Henceforward  and  forevermore,  avaunt  785 

Ye  fiends,  who  drop  disguise  and  glare  revealed 

In  your  own  shape,  no  longer  father  mine 

Nor  mother  mine!    Too  nakedly  you  hate 

Me  whom  you  looked  as  if  you  loved  once,  —  me 

Whom,  whether  true  or  false,  your  tale  now  damns,  790 

Divulged  thus  to  my  public  infamy, 

Private  perdition,  absolute  overthrow. 

For,  hate  my  husband  to  your  hearts'  content, 

I,  spoil  and  prey  of  you  from  first  to  last, 

I  who  have  done  you  the  blind  service,  lured  795 

The  lion  to  your  pitfall,  —  I,  thus  left 

To  answer  for  my  ignorant  bleating  there, 

I  should  have  been  remembered  and  withdrawn 

From  the  first  o'  the  natural  fury,  not  flung  loose 

A  proverb  and  a  by- word  men  will  mouth.  800 

At  the  cross-way,  in  the  corner,  up  and  down 

Rome  and  Arezzo, : —  there,  full  in  my  face. 

If  my  lord,  missing  them  and  finding  me. 

Content  himself  with  casting  his  reproach 

To  drop  i'  the  street  where  such  impostors  die.  805 

Ah,  but  — that  husband,  what  the  wonder  were!  — 

If,  far  from  casting  thus  away  the  rag 

Smeared  with  the  plague  his  hand  had  chanced  upon, 

Sewn  to  his  pillow  by  Locusta's  wile,^  — 

Far  from  abolishing,  root,  stem  and  branch,  810 

The  misgrowth  of  infectious  mistletoe 

Foisted  mto  his  stock  for  honest  graft,  — 

If  he  repudiate  not,  renounce  nowise. 

But,  guarding,  guiding  me,  maintain  my  cause 

By  making  it  his  own,  (what  other  way?)  815 

—  To  keep  my  name  for  me,  he  call  it  his, 

Claim  it  of  who  would  take  it  by  their  lie,  — 

To  save  my  wealth  for  me — or  babe  of  mine 

Their  lie  was  framed  to  beggar  at  the  birth  — 

He  bid  them  loose  grasp,  give  our  gold  again :  820 

If  he  become  no  partner  with  the  pair 

Even  in  a  game  which,  played  adroitly,  gives 

Its  winner  life's  great  wonderful  new  chance,  — 

Of  marrying,  to-wit,  a  second  time,  — 

Ah,  if  he  did  thus,  what  a  friend  were  he !  825 

Anger  he  might  show,  —  who  can  stamp  out  flame 

Yet  spread  no  black  o'  the  brand  ?  —  yet,  rough  albeit 

^  Locusta  :  the  name  of  a  notorious  female    typical  of  any  poisoner.    She  helped  Nero  to 
poisoner  at  Rome  in  the  first  century;  hence    poison  Britannicus. 


In  the  act,  as  whose  bare  feet  feel  embers  scorch, 

What  grace  were  his,  what  gratitude  were  mine! " 

Such  protestation  should  have  been  my  wife^s.  830 

Looking  for  this,  do  I  exact  too  much  ? 

Why,  here 's  the,  —  word  for  word,  so  much,  no  more,  — 

Avowal  she  made,  her  pure  spontaneous  speech 

To  my  brother  the  Abate  at  first  blush, 

Ere  the  Eood  impulse  had  beeun  to  fade :  835 

So  did  she  make  confession  &  the  pair. 

So  pour  forth  praises  in  her  own  behalf. 

"Ay,  the  false  letter,"  interpose  my  lords  — 

"  The  simulated  writing,  —  't  was  a  trick : 

You  traced  the  signs,  she  merely  marked  the  same,  840 

The  product  was  not  hers  but  yours."    Alack, 

1  want  no  more  impulsion  to  tell  truth 

From  the  other  trick,  the  torture  inside  there! 

I  confess  all  —  let  it  be  understood  — 

And  deny  nothing!     If  I  baffle  you  so,  845 

Can  so  fence,  in  the  plenitude  of  right. 

That  my  poor  lathen  ^  dagger  puts  aside 

Each  pass  o'  the  Bilboa,*-*  beats  you  all  the  same,— 

What  matters  inefficiency  of  blade? 

Mine  and  not  hers  the  letter,  —  conceded,  lords!  850 

Impute  to  me  that  practice!  —  take  as  proved 

I  taught  my  wife  her  duty,  made  her  see 

What  it  behoved  her  see  and  say  and  do. 

Feel  in  her  heart  and  with  her  tongue  declare. 

And,  whether  sluggish  or  recalcitrant,  855 

Forced  her  to  take  the  right  step,  I  myself 

Was  marching  in  marital  rectitude! 

Why  who  finds  fault  here,  say  the  tale  be  true? 

Would  not  my  lords  commend  the  priest  whose  zeal 

Seized  on  the  sick,  morose  or  moribund,  860 

By  the  palsy-smitten  finger,  made  it  cross 

His  brow  correctly  at  the  critical  time? 

—  Or  answered  for  the  inarticulate  babe 

At  baptism,  in  its  stead  declared  the  faith. 

And  saved  what  else  would  perish  unprofessed?  865 

True,  the  incapable  hand  may  rally  yet, 

Renounce  the  sign  with  renovated  strength,  — 

The  babe  may  grow  up  man  and  Molinist, — 

And  so  Pompilia,  set  in  the  good  path 

And  left  to  go  alone  there,  soon  might  see  870 

That  too  frank-forward,  all  too  simple-straight 

*  Ltttken  --  Utteti,    a    kind   of    brass    or         '  Bilhoa  :  a  flexible-bladed  cutlass  named 
bronxe.    See  note,  1.  xa^z.  from    Bilboa,  the    Spanish   adventurer   and 

American  discoverer. 



Her  step  was,  and  decline  to  tread  the  rough, 

When  here  lay,  tempting  foot,  the  meadow-side, 

And  there  the  coppice  rang  with  singins-birds ! 

Soon  she  discovered  she  was  young  and  fair,  875 

That  many  in  Arezzo  knew  as  much. 

Yes,  this  next  cup  of  bitterness,  my  lords. 

Had  to  begin  go  filling,  drop  by  drop, 

Its  measure  up  of  full  disgust  for  me, 

Filtered  into  by  every  noisome  drain  —  880 

Society^s  sink  toward  which  all  moisture  runs. 

Would  not  you  prophesy  —  "  She  on  whose  brow  is  stamped 

The  note  01  the  imputation  that  we  know, — 

Rightly  or  wrongly  mothered  with  a  whore, — 

Such  an  one,  to  disprove  the  frightful  charge,  885 

What  will  she  but  exaggerate  chastity. 

Err  in  excess  of  wifehood,  as  it  were. 

Renounce  even  levities  permitted  youth. 

Though  not  youth  struck  to  age  by  a  thunderbolt? 

Cry  *wolf'  i'  the  sheepfold,  where 's  the  sheep  dares  bleat,     890 

Knowing  the  shepherd  listens  for  a  growl  ?  " 

So  you  expect.     How  did  the  devil  decree? 

Why,  my  lords,  just  the  contrary  of  course! 

It  was  in  the  house  from  the  window,  at  the  church 

From  the  hassock,  —  where  the  theatre  lent  its  lodge,  895 

Or  staging  for  the  public  show  left  space,  — 

That  still  Pompilia  needs  must  find  herself 

Launching  her  looks  forth,  letting  looks  reply 

As  arrows  to  a  challenge ;  on  all  sides 

Ever  new  contribution  to  her  lap,  900 

Till  one  day,  what  is  it  knocks  at  my  clenched  teeth 

But  the  cup  full,  curse-collected  all  for  me  ? 

And  I  must  needs  drink,  drink  this  gallant^s  praise, 

That  minion's  prayer,  the  other  fop's  reproach. 

And  come  at  the  dregs  to  —  Caponsacchi !     Sirs,  905 

I,  —  chin-deep  in  a  marsh  of  misery. 

Struggling  to  extricate  my  name  and  fame 

And  fortune  from  the  marsh  would  drown  them  all, 

My  face  the  sole  unstrangled  part  of  me,  — 

I  must  have  this  new  gad-fly  in  that  face,  910 

Must  free  me  from  the  attacking  lover  too! 

Men  say  I  battled  ungracefully  enough  — 

Was  harsh,  uncouth  and  ludicrous  beyond 

The  proper  part  o'  the  husband :  have  it  so! 

Your  lordships  are  considerate  at  least  —  915 

You  order  me  to  speak  in  my  defence 

Plainly,  expect  no  quavering  tuneful  trills 

As  when  you  bid  a  singer  solace  you,  — 

Nor  look  that  I  shall  give  it,  for  a  grace. 

i66  THE  klPfG  APfD  THE  BOOK. 

Starts  pede  in  uno :  ^  —  you  remember  well  920 

In  the  one  case,  't  is  a  plainsong^  too  severe, 

This  story  of  my  wrongs,  —  and  that  I  ache 

And  need  a  chair,  in  the  other.     Ask  you  me 

Why,  when  I  felt  this  trouble  flap  my  face, 

Already  pricked  with  every  shame  could  perch,  —  925 

When,  with  her  parents,  my  wife  plagued  me  too,  — 

Why  I  enforced  not  exhortation  mild 

To  leave  whore's-tricks  and  let  my  brows  alone. 

With  mulct  of  comfits,  promise  of  perfume  ? 

"Far  from  that!    No,  you  took  the  opposite  course,  930 

Breathed  threatenings,  rage  and  slaughter!"    What  you  will! 

And  the  end  has  come,  the  doom  is  verily  here, 

Unhindered  by  the  threatening.     See  fate's  flare 

Full  on  each  face  of  the  dead  guilty  three ! 

Look  at  them  well,  and  now,  lords,  look  at  this!  935 

Tell  me :  if  on  that  day  when  I  found  first 

That  Capsonsacchi  thought  the  nearest  way 

To  his  church  was  some  half-mile  round  by  my  door, 

And  that  he  so  admired,  shall  I  suppose. 

The  manner  of  the  swallows'  come-and-go  940 

Between  the  props  o'  the  window  over-head,  — 

That  window  happening  to  be  my  wife's,  — 

As  to  stand  gazing  by  the  hour  on  high, 

Of  May-eves,  while  she  sat  and  let  him  smile,  — 

If  I,  —  instead  of  threatening,  talking  big,  945 

Showing  hair-powder,  a  prodigious  pinch. 

For  poison  in  a  bottle, — making  believe 

At  desperate  doings  with  a  bauble-sword. 

And  other  bugaboo-and-baby-work,  — 

Had,  with  the  vulgarest  household  implement,  950 

Calmly  and  quietly  cut  off,  clean  thro'  bone 

But  one  joint  of  one  finger  of  my  wife. 

Saying  "  For  listening  to  the  serenade. 

Here's  your  ring-finger  shorter  a  full  third : 

Be  certain  I  will  slice  away  next  joint,  955 

Next  time  that  anybody  underneath 

Seems  somehow  to  be  sauntering  as  he  hoped 

A  flower  would  eddy  out  of  your  hand  to  his 

While  you  please  fidget  with  the  branch  above 

O'  the  rose-tree  in  the  terrace!"  —  had  I  done  so,  960 

Why,  there  had  followed  a  quick  sharp  scream,  some  pain, 

1  Sians  Pede  in  uno:  "standing  on  one         *  Platnsong:    simple  early  chants  of  the 
foot,"  a  metaphor  descriptive  of  anything  done    church, 
easily  or  off-hand;  from  Horace,  "  Satires,"  i. 
4»  10^ 


Much  calling  for  plaister,  damage  to  the  dress, 

A  somewhat  sulky  countenance  next  day. 

Perhaps  reproaches,  —  but  reflections  too! 

I  donH  hear  much  of  harm  that  Malchus  did  965 

After  the  incident  of  the  ear,  my  lords ! 

Saint  Peter  took  the  efficacious  way ; 

Malchus  was  sore  but  silenced  for  his  life : 

He  did  not  hang  himself  i'  the  Potter's  Field 

Like  Judas,  who  was  trusted  with  the  bag  970 

And  treated  to  sops  after  he  proved  a  thief. 

So,  by  this  time,  my  true  and  obedient  wife 

Might  have  been  telling  beads  with  a  gloved  hand ; 

Awkward  a  little  at  pricking  hearts  and  darts 

On  sampler  possibly,  but  well  otherwise :  975 

Not  where  Rome  shudders  now  to  see  her  lie. 

I  give  that  for  the  course  a  wise  man  takes ; 

I  took  the  other  however,  tried  the  fool's. 

The  lighter  remedy,  brandished  rapier  dread 

With  cork-ball  at  the  tip,  boxed  Malchus'  ear  980 

Instead  of  severing  the  cartilage. 

Called  her  a  terrible  nickname,  and  the  like, 

And  there  an  end :  and  what  was  the  end  of  that? 

What  was  the  good  effect  o'  the  gentle  course? 

Why,  one  night  I  went  drowsily  to  bed,  985 

Dropped  asleep  suddenly,  not  suddenly  woke. 

But  did  wake  with  rough  rousing  and  loud  cry, 

To  find  noon  in  my  face,  a  crowd  in  my  room. 

Fumes  in  my  brain,  fire  in  my  throat,  my  wife 

Gone  God  knows  whither,  —  rifled  vesture-chest,  990 

And  ransacked  money-coffer.     "  What  does  it  mean?  " 

The  servants  had  been  drugged  too,  stared  and  yawned 

"  It  must  be  that  our  lady  has  eloped! " 

—  "  Whither  and  with  whom  ?  "  —  "  With  whom  but  the  Canon^s 

One  recognizes  Caponsacchi  there ! "  —  995 

(By  this  time  the  admirine  neighborhood 
Joined  chorus  round  me  while  I  rubbed  my  eyes) 
**  'T  is  months  since  their  intelligence  began,  — 
A  comedy  the  town  was  privy  to,  — 

He  wrote  and  she  wrote,  she  spoke,  he  replied,  1000 

And  going  in  and  out  your  house  last  night 
Was  easy  work  for  one  ...  to  be  plain  with  you  ... 
Accustomed  to  do  both,  at  dusk  and  dawn 
When  you  were  absent,  —  at  the  villa,  you  know, 
Where  husbandry  required  the  master-mind.  I005 

Did  not  you  know?    Why,  we  all  knew,  you  see! " 
And  presently,  bit  by  bit,  the  full  and  true 
Particulars  of  the  tale  were  volunteered 



With  all  the  breathless  zeal  of  friendship — ''Thus 

Matters  were  managed :  at  the  seventh  hour  of  night  ^  .  .  .    loio 

— "  Later,  at  daybreak  "  .  .  .  "  Caponsacchi  came "  .  .  • 

—  <<  While  you  and  all  your  household  slept  like  death^ 

Drugged  as  your  supper  was  with  drowsy  stuff"  .  .  • 

— "  And  your  own  cousin  Guillichini  too  — 

Either  or  both  entered  your  dwelling-place,  1015 

Plundered  it  at  their  pleasure,  made  prize  of  all. 

Including  your  wife  .  .  ." — "  Oh,  your  wife  led  the  way, 

Out  of  doors,  on  to  the  gate  .  .  .  ^^ — ''  But  eates  are  shut. 

In  a  decent  town,  to  darkness  and  such  dee& : 

Thev  climbed  the  wall  —  your  lady  must  be  lithe —  1020 

At  the  gap,  the  broken  bit  .  .  .  "  —  "  Torrione,  true  I 

To  escape  the  questioning  guard  at  the  proper  gate, 

Clemente,  where  at  the  inn,  hard  by, '  the  Horse,* 

Just  outside,  a  calash  in  readiness 

Took  the  two  principals,  all  alone  at  last,  1025 

To  gate  San  Spirito,  which  overlooks  the  road, 

Leads  to  Perugia,  Rome  and  liberty." 

Bit  by  bit  thus  made-up  mosaic-wise, 

Flat  lay  my  fortune,  —  tessellated  floor, 

Imperishable  tracery  devils  should  foot  lojo 

And  frolic  it  on,  around  my  broken  gods, 

Over  my  desecrated  hearth. 

So  much 
For  the  terrible  effect  of  threatening,  Sirs! 
Well,  this  way  I  was  shaken  wide  awake. 

Doctored  and  drenched,  somewhat  unpoisoned  so.  1035 

Then,  set  on  horseback  and  bid  seek  the  lost, 
I  started  alone,  head  of  me,  heart  of  me 
Fire,  and  each  limb  as  languid  ...  ah,  sweet  lords, 
Bethink  you  !  —  poison-torture,  try  persuade 
The  next  refractory  Molinist  with  that !  .  .  .  1040 

Floundered  thro'  day  and  night,  another  day 
And  yet  another  ni^ht,  and  so  at  last. 
As  Lucifer  kept  falhng  to  find  hell. 
Tumbled  into  the  court-yard  of  an  inn 

At  the  end,  and  fell  on  whom  I  thought  to  find,  1045 

Even  Caponsacchi,  —  what  part  once  was  priest. 
Cast  to  the  winds  now  with  the  cassock-rags. 
In  cape  and  sword  a  cavalier  confessed. 
There  stood  he  chiding  dilatory  grooms. 

Chafing  that  only  horseflesh  and  no  team  1050 

Of  eagles  would  supply  the  last  relay, 
Whirl  him  along  the  league,  the  one  post  more 
Between  the  couple  and  Rome  and  liberty. 
'T  was  dawn,  the  couple  were  rested  in  a  sort ; 
And  though  the  lady,  tired,  —  the  tenderer  sex,  —  105 5 


Still  lingered  in  her  chamber, —to  adjust 

The  limp  hair,  look  for  any  blush  astray,  — 

She  would  descend  in  a  twinkling,  —  *<  Have  you  out 

The  horses  therefore  I" 

So  did  I  find  my  wife. 
Is  the  case  complete?    Do  your  eyes  here  see  with  mine? 
Even  the  parties  dared  deny  no  one  1061 

Point  out  of  all  these  points* 

What  follows  next? 
"  Why,  that  then  was  the  time,"  you  interpose, 
"  Or  then  or  never,  while  the  fact  was  fresh. 
To  take  the  natural  vengeance ;  there  and  thus  1065 

They  and  you, — sombody  had  stuck  a  sword 
Beside  you  while  he  pushed  you  on  your  horse, — 
'T  was  requisite  to  slay  the  couple.  Count!" 
Just  so  my  friends  say.    "  Kill! "  they  cry  in  a  breath. 
Who  presently,  when  matters  grow  to  a  head  1070 

And  I  do  kill  the  offending  ones  indeed, — 
When  crime  of  theirs,  only  surmised  before. 
Is  patent,  proved  indisputably  now,  — 
When  remedy  for  wrong,  untried  at  the  time. 
Which  law  professes  shall  not  fail  a  friend,  1075 

Is  thrice  tried  now,  found  threefold  worse  than  null, — 
When  what  might  turn  to  transient  shade,  who  knows? 
Solidifies  into  a  blot  which  breaks 
Hell's  black  off  in  pale  flakes  for  fear  of  mine, — 
Then,  when  I  claim  and  take  revenge  —  "  So  rash?"         1080 
They  cry  —  "so  little  reverence  for  the  law?" 

Listen,  my  masters,  and  distinguish  here! 

At  first,  I  called  in  law  to  act  and  help : 

Seeing  I  did  so,  "  Why,  \  is  clear,"  they  cry, 

"  You  shrank  from  gallant  readiness  and  risk,  1085 

Were  coward :  the  thing 's  inexplicable  else." 

Sweet  my  lords,  let  the  thing  be!    I  fall  flat, 

Play  the  reed,  not  the  oak,  to  breath  of  man. 

Only  inform  my  ignorance!     Say  I  stand 

Convicted  of  the  having  been  afraid,  1090 

Proved  a  poltroon,  no  lion  but  a  lamb,  — 

Does  that  deprive  me  of  my  right  of  lamb 

And  give  my  fleece  and  flesh  to  the  first  wolf? 

Are  eunuchs,  women,  children,  shieldless  quite 

Against  attack  their  own  timidity  tempts?  1095 

Cowardice  were  misfortune  and  no  crime ! 

—  Take*  it  that  way,  since  I  am  fallen  so  low 

1  scarce  dare  brush  the  fly  that  blows  my  face. 

And  thank  the  man  who  simply  spits  not  there,  — 

Unless  the  Court  be  generous,  comprehend  *ioo 


How  one  brought  up  at  the  very  feet  of  law 

As  ly  awaits  the  grave  GamaliePs  nod 

Ere  he  clench  fist  at  outrage, — much  less,  stab! 

—  How,  ready  enough  to  nse  at  the  right  time, 

I  still  could  recognize  no  time  mature  iioj 

Unsanctioned  by  a  move  o^  the  judgment-seat, 

So,  mute  in  misery,  eyed  my  masters  here 

Motionless  till  the  authoritative  word 

Pronounced  amercement.    There 's  the  riddle  solved : 

This  is  just  why  I  slew  nor  her  nor  him,  iiio 

But  called  in  law,  law^s  delegate  in  the  place. 

And  bade  arrest  the  guilty  couple,  Sirs! 

We  had  some  trouble  to  do  so — you  have  heard 

They  braved  me,  —  he  with  arrogance  and  scorn. 

She,  with  a  volubility  of  curse,  1115 

A  conversancy  in  the  skill  of  tooth 

And  claw  to  make  suspicion  seem  absurd. 

Nay,  an  alacrity  to  put  to  proof 

At  my  own  throat  my  own  sword,  teach  me  so 

To  try  conclusions  better  the  next  time, —  11 20 

Which  did  the  proper  service  with  the  mob. 

They  never  tried  to  put  on  mask  at  all : 

Two  avowed  lovers  forcibly  torn  apart. 

Upbraid  the  tyrant  as  in  a  playhouse  scene. 

Ay,  and  with  proper  clapping  and  applause  112s 

From  the  audience  that  enjoys  the  bold  and  free. 

I  kept  still,  said  to  myself,  "  There 's  law! "    Anon 

We  searched  the  chamber  where  they  passed  the  night, 

Found  what  confirmed  the  worst  was  feared  before. 

However  needless  confirmation  now  —  1 130 

The  witches'  circle  intact,  charms  undisturbed 

That  raised  the  spirit  and  succubus,^ — letters,  to-wit, 

Love-laden,  each  the  bag  o'  the  bee  that  bore 

Honey  from  lily  and  rose  to  Cupid's  hive,  — 

Now,  poetry  in  some  rank  blossom-burst,  1 135 

Now,  prose,  —  "  Come  here,  go  there,  wait  such  a  while, 

He  's  at  the  villa,  now  he  's  back  again : 

We  are  saved,  we  are  lost,  we  are  lovers  all  the  same!" 

All  in  order,  all  complete,  —  even  to  a  clue 

To  the  drowsiness  that  happed  so  opportune —  1 149 

No  mystery,  when  I  read  "  Of  all  things,  find 

What  wine  Sir  Jealousy  decides  to  drink  — 

Red  wine?     Because  a  sleeping-potion,  dust 

Dropped  into  white,  discolors  wine  and  shows." 

—  " Oh,  but  we  did  not  write  a  single  word!  1 145 

^  Succubus  :  a  demon  that  has  been  conjured  up. 


Somebody  forged  the  letters  in  our  name!  —  ^ 

Both  in  a  breath  protested  presently. 

Aha,  Sacchetti  again!  —  "  Dame,"  —  quoth  the  Duke, 

*^  What  meaneth  this  epistle,  counsel  me, 

I  pick  from  out  thy  placket  and  peruse,  11 50 

Wherein  my  page  averreth  thou  art  white 

And  warm  and  wonderful  'twixt  pap  and  pap?" 

"  Sir,"  laughed  the  Lady,  <*'t  is  a  counterfeit! 

Thy  page  did  never  stroke  but  Dianas  breast^ 

The  pretty  hound  I  nurture  for  thy  sake :  11 55 

To  lie  were  losel,  —  by  my  fay,  no  more ! " 

And  no  more  say  I  too,  and  spare  the  Court. 

Ah,  the  Court!  yes,  I  come  to  the  Court's  self; 

Such  the  case,  so  complete  in  fact  and  proof, 

I  laid  at  the  feet  of  law,  —  there  sat  m^  lords,  1 160 

Here  sit  they  now,  so  may  they  ever  sit 

In  easier  attitude  than  suits  my  haunch! 

In  this  same  chamber  did  I  bare  my  sores 

O'  the  soul  and  not  the  body,  —  shun  no  shame, 

Shrink  from  no  probing  of  the  ulcerous  part,  11 65 

Since  confident  m  Nature,  —  which  is  God,  — 

That  she  who,  for  wise  ends,  concocts  a  plague. 

Curbs,  at  the  right  time,  the  plague's  virulence  too : 

Law  renovates  even  Lazarus,  —  cures  me! 

Caesar  thou  seekest?    To  Caesar  thou  shalt  go!  11 70 

Caesar's  at  Rome:  to  Rome  accordingly! 

The  case  was  soon  decided :  both  weifi;hts,  cast 

r  the  balance,  vibrate,  neither  kicks  the  beam. 

Here  away,  there  away,  this  now  and  now  that. 

To  every  one  o'  my  grievances  law  gave  1175 

Redress,  could  purblind  eye  but  see  the  point. 

The  wife  stood  a  convicted  runagate 

From  house  and  husband,  —  driven  to  such  a  course 

By  what  she  somehow  took  for  cruelty. 

Oppression  and  imperilment  of  life  —  1 180 

Not  that  such  things  were,  but  that  so  they  seemed : 

Therefore,  the  end  conceded  lawful,  (since 

To  save  life  there 's  no  risk  should  stay  our  leap) 

It  follows  that  all  means  to  the  lawful  end 

Are  lawful  likewise,  —  poison,  theft  and  flight.  11 85 

As  for  the  priest's  part,  did  he  meddle  or  make, 

Enough  that  he  too  thought  life  jeopardized ; 

Concede  him  then  the  color  charity 

Casts  on  a  doubtful  course,  —  if  blackish  white 

Or  whitish  black,  will  charity  hesitate  ?  1 190 

What  did  he  else  but  act  the  precept  out, 


Leave,  like  a  provident  shepherd,  his  safe  flock 

To  follow  the  single  lamb  and  strayawav? 

Best  hope  so  and  think  so,  —  that  the  tiddiih  tiuM 

r  the  carriage,  the  tempting  privacy,  the  last  1195 

Somewhat  ambiguous  accident  at  the  inn, 

—  All  may  bear  explanation:   may?  then,  must  I 
The  letters,  —  do  they  so  incriminate? 

But  what  if  the  whole  prove  a  prank  o^  the  pen, 

Flight  of  the  fancy,  none  of  theirs  at  all,  1200 

Bred  of  the  vapors  of  my  brain  belike, 

Or  at  worst  mere  exercise  of  scholar^s-wit 

In  the  courtly  Caponsacchi:  verse,  convict? 

Did  not  Catullus  ^  write  less  seemly  once? 

Yet  doctus  and  unblemished  he  abides.  1205 

Wherefore  so  ready  to  infer  the  worst? 

Still,  I  did  righteously  in  bringing  doubts 

For  the  law  to  solve,  —  take  the  solution  now! 

^'  Seeing  that  the  said  associates,  wife  and  priest, 

Bear  themselves  not  without  some  touch  of  blame  12 10 

— Else  why  the  pother,  scandal  and  outcry 

Which  trouble  our  peace  and  require  chastisement? 

We,  for  complicity  in  Pompilia^s  flight 

And  deviation,  and  carnal  mtercourse 

With  the  same,  do  set  aside  and  relegate  12 15 

The  Canon  Caponsacchi  for  three  years 

At  Civita  in  the  neighborhood  of  Rome : 

And  we  consign  Pompilia  to  the  care 

Of  a  certain  Sisterhood  of  penitents 

r  the  city's  self,  expert  to  deal  with  such."  1220 

Word  for  word,  there 's  your  judgment  I   Read  it,  lords. 

Re-utter  your  deliberate  penaJtv 

For  the  crime  yourselves  establish  I    Your  award -^ 

Who  chop  a  man's  right-hand  ofl*  at  the  wrist 

For  tracing  with  forefinger  words  in  wine  1225 

O^  the  table  of  a  drinking-booth  that  bear 

Interpretation  as  they  mocked  the  Church  I 

—  Who  brand  a  woman  black  between  the  breasts 
For  sinning  by  connection  with  a  Jew : 

While  for  the  Jew's  self —  pudency  be  dumb!  1230 

You  mete  out  punishment  such  and  such,  yet  so 

Punish  the  adultery  of  wife  and  priest! 

Take  note  of  that,  before  the  Molinists  do, 

And  read  me  right  the  riddle,  since  right  must  be  I 

While  I  stood  rapt  away  with  wonderment,  1235 

Voices  broke  in  upon  my  mood  and  muse. 

*Do  you  sleep?"  began  the  friends  at  either  ear, 

1  Catullus  :  a  learned  but  wanton  poet,  87-47  B.C. 


^The  case  is  settled,  —  you  willed  it  should  be  so  *-« 

None  of  our  counsel,  always  recollect! 

With  law^s  award,  budge!    Bade  into  your  place!  1240 

Your  betters  shall  arrange  the  rest  for  you. 

We  ^  enter  a  new  action,  claim  divorce : 

Your  marriage  was  a  cheat  themselves  allow : 

You  erred  i^  the  person,  —  might  have  married  thus 

Your  sister  or  your  daughter  unaware.  1245 

We  ^11  gain  you,  that  way,  libertv  at  least, 

Sure  of  so  much  by  law^s  own  showing.    Up 

And  off  with  you  and  your  unluckiness — 

Leave  us  to  bury  the  blunder,  sweep  things  smooth!  ^ 

I  was  in  humble  frame  of  mind,  be  sure!  1250 

I  bowed,  betook  me  to  my  place  again. 

Station  by  station  I  retraced  the  road. 

Touched  at  this  hostel,  passed  this  post-house  by. 

Where,  fresh-remembered  yet,  the  nigitives 

Had  risen  to  the  heroic  stature :  still —  1255 

"That  was  the  bench  they  sat  on,  — there 's  the  board 

They  took  the  meal  at,  —  yonder  garden-ground 

They  leaned  across  the  gate  of,"  —  ever  a  word 

O'  the  Helen  and  the  Paris,  with  "  Ha!  you  're  he, 

The  .  .  .  much-commiserated  husband?"  step  1260 

By  step,  across  the  pelting,  did  I  reach 

Arezzo,  underwent  the  archway's  grin. 

Traversed  the  length  of  sarcasm  in  the  street, 

Found  myself  in  my  horrible  house  once  more, 

And  after  a  colloquy  ...  no  word  assists!  1265 

With  the  mother  and  the  brothers,  stiffened  me 

Straight  out  from  head  to  foot  as  dead  man  does, 

And,  thus  prepared  for  life  as  he  for  hell, 

Marched  to  the  public  Square  and  met  the  world. 

Apologize  for  the  pincers,  palliate  screws?  1270 

Ply  me  with  such  toy-trifles,  I  entreat! 

Trust  who  has  tried  both  sulphur  and  sops-in-wine! 

I  played  the  man  as  I  best  might,  bade  friends      ^  '^        ., 

Put  non-essentials  by  and  foce  the  fact. 

"  What  need  to  hang  myself  as  you  advise?  1275 

The  paramour  is  banished,  —  the  ocean's  width, 

Or  the  suburb's  length,  —  to  Ultima  Thule,^  say, 

Or  Proxima  Civitas,*  what 's  the  odds  of  name 

And  place?    He 's  banished,  and  the  fact 's  the  thing. 

Why  should  law  banish  innocence  an  inch?  1280 

^  Ultima  ThuU  :  the  liame  given  by  the  an-        *  Proxima  Civitas  :  the  nearest  city, 
cients  to  the  farthest  land  known  to  the  north, 
supposed  to  be  either  Iceland  or  the  Orkneys^ 


Here 's  guilt  then,  what  else  do  I  care  to  know  ? 

The  adulteress  lies  imprisoned,  —  whether  in  a  well 

With  bricks  above  and  a  snake  for  company, 

Or  tied  by  a  garter  to  a  bed-post,  —  much 

I  mind  what  ^s  little,  —  least  ^s  enough  and  to  spare !  1285 

The  little  fillip  on  the  coward's  cheek 

Serves  as  though  crab-tree  cudgel  broke  his  pate. 

Law  has  pronounced  there  ^s  punishment,  less  or  more : 

And  I  take  note  o^  the  fact  and  use  it  thus — 

For  the  first  flaw  in  the  original  bond,  1290 

I  claim  release.     My  contract  was  to  wed 

The  daughter  of  Pietro  and  Violante.     Both 

Protest  they  never  had  a  child  at  all. 

Then  I  have  never  made  a  contract :  good! 

Cancel  me  quick  the  thing  pretended  one.  1295 

I  shall  be  free.     What  matter  if  hurried  over 

The  harbor-boom  by  a  great  favoring  tide. 

Or  the  last  of  a  spent  ripple  that  lifts  and  leaves  ? 

The  Abate  is  about  it.    Laugh  who  wins!  ,  .  <'' 

You  shall  not  laugh  me  out  of  faith  in  law!    \     -.  ->    ^       1300 

I  listen,  through  ^  your  noise,  to  Rome!  ^' 

Rome  spoke. . 
In  three  months  letters  thence  admonished  me, 
"  Your  plan  for  the  divorce  is  all  a  mistake. 
It  would  hold,  now,  had  you,  taking  thought  to  wed 
Rachel  of  the  blue  eye  and  golden  hair,  1305 

Found  swarth-skinned  Leah  cumber  couch  next  day : 
But  Rachel,  blue-eyed  golden-haired  aright. 
Proving  to  be  only  Laban^s  child,  not  Lot's, 
Remains  yours  all  the  same  for  ever  more. 
No  whit  to  the  purpose  is  your  plea:  you  err  1310 

r  the  person  and  the  quality  —  nowise 
In  the  individual,  —  that's  the  case  in  point! 
You  go  to  the  ground,  —  are  met  by  a  cross-suit 
For  separation,  of  the  Rachel  here. 

From  bed  and  board,  —  she  is  the  injured  one,  13 15 

You  did  the  wrong  and  have  to  answer  it. 
As  for  the  circumstance  of  imprisonment 
And  color  it  lends  to  this  your  new  attack. 
Never  fear,  that  point  is  considered  too! 
The  durance  is  already  at  an  end ;  1320 

The  convent-quiet  preyed  upon  her  health. 
She  is  transferred  now  to  her  parents'  house 
—  No-parents,  when  that  cheats  and  plunders  you. 
But  parentage  again  confessed  in  full, 

When  such  confession  pricks  and  plagues  you  more  —      1325 
As  now — for,  this  their  house  is  not  the  house 
In  Via  Vittoria  wherein  neighbors'  watch 


Might  incommode  the  freedom  of  your  wife, 

But  a  certain  villa  smothered  up  in  vines 

At  the  town's  edge  by  the  gate  i'  the  Pauline  Way,  1330 

Out  of  eye-reach,  out  of  ear-shot,  little  and  lone. 

Whither  a  friend,  —  at  Civita,  we  hope, 

A  good  half-dozen-hours'  ride  off, —  might,  some  eve, 

Betake  himself,  and  whence  ride  back,  some  mom, 

Nobody  the  wiser :  but  be  that  as  it  may,  1335 

Do  not  afflict  your  brains  with  trifles  now. 

You  have  still  three  suits  to  manage,  all  and  each 

Ruinous  truly  should  the  event  play  false. 

It  is  indeed  the  likelier  so  to  do. 

That  brother  Paul,  your  single  prop  and  stay,  1340 

After  a  vain  attempt  to  bring  the  Pope 

To  set  aside  procedures,  sit  himself 

And  summarily  use  prerogative,  . 

Afford  us  the  infallible  finger's  tact 

To  disentwine  your  tangle  of  affairs,  1345 

Paul,  —  finding  it  moreover  past  his  strength 

To  stem  the  irruption,  bear  Rome's  ridicme 

Of  .  .  .  since  friends  must  speak  ...  to  be  round  with  you  .  .  . 

Of  the  old  outwitted  husband,  wronged  and  wroth, 

Pitted  against  a  brace  of  juveniles —  1350 

A  brisk  priest  who  is  versed  in  Ovid's  art  ^ 

More  than  his  Summa,^  and  a  gamesome  wife 

Able  to  act  Corinna  '  without  book. 

Beside  the  waggish  parents  who  played  dupes 

To  dupe  the  duper —  (and  truly  divers  scenes  1355 

Of  the  Arezzo  palace,  tickle  rib 

And  tease  eye  till  the  tears  come,  so  we  laugh ; 

Nor  wants  the  shock  at  the  inn  its  comic  force. 

And  then  the  letters  and  poetry — merum  sall^) 

—  Paul,  finally,  in  such  a  state  of  things,  I360 

After  a  brief  temptation  to  go  jump 

And  join  the  fishes  in  the  Tiber,  drowns 

Sorrow  another  and  a  wiser  way : 

House  and  goods,  he  has  sold  all  off,  is  gone, 

Leaves  Rome,  —  whether  for  France  or  Spain,  who  knows?  1365 

Or  Britain  almost  divided  from  our  orb. 

You  have  lost  him  anyhow." 

Now,  —  I  see  my  lords 
Shift  in  their  seat,  —  would  I  could  do  the  same! 
They  probably  please  expect  my  bile  was  moved 

>  OvteTsart :  Ovid  wrote  a  book  on  "  The         »  Corinna  :    Ovid's    mistress   Julia 
Art  of  Love."  celebrated  by  him  under  the  name  of  Corinna, 

*  Summa  :  the  "  Summa  Theologiae,"  by         *  Merum  sal :  pure  salt. 
St.  Thomas  Aquinas,  from  which  the  priests 
of  the  Roman  Church  study  their  theology. 


To  purpose,  nor  much  blame  me :  now,  they  judge,  1370 

The  fiery  titillation  urged  my  flesh 

Break  through  the  bonds.    By  your  pardon,  no,  sweet  Sirs! 

I  got  such  missives  in  the  public  place ; 

When  I  sought  home, — with  such  news,  mounted  stair 

And  sat  at  last  in  the  sombre  gallery,  1375 

(T  was  Autumn,  the  old  mother  in  bed  betimes. 

Having  to  bear  that  cold,  the  finer  frame 

Of  her  daughter-in-law  had  found  intolerable  — 

The  brother,  walking  misery  away 

O^  the  mountain-side  with  dog  and  gun  belike)  1380 

As  I  supped,  ate  the  coarse  bread,  drank  the  wine 

Weak  once,  now  acrid  with  the  toad^s-head-squeeze. 

My  wife's  bestowment,  —  I  broke  silence  thus : 

"  Let  me,  a  man,  manfully  meet  the  fact, 

Confront  the  worst  o'  the  truth,  end,  and  have  peace!  1385 

I  am  irremediably  beaten  here,  — 

The  gross  illiterate  vulgar  couple, — bah! 

Why,  they  have  measured  forces,  mastered  mine. 

Made  me  their  spoil  and  prey  from  first  to  last. 

They  have  got  my  name,  —  H  is  nailed  now  fast  to  theirs,         1390 

The  child  or  changeling  is  anyway  my  wife ; 

Point  by  point  as  they  plan  they  execute. 

They  gain  all,  and  I  lose  all — even  to  the  lure 

That  led  to  loss,  —  they  have  the  wealth  again 

They  hazarded  awhile  to  hook  me  with,  1395 

Have  caught  the  fish  and  find  the  bait  entire : 

They  even  have  their  child  or  changeling  back 

To  trade  with,  turn  to  account  a  second  time. 

The  brother  presumably  might  tell  a  tale 

Or  rive  a  warning, — he,  too,  flies  the  field,  1400 

And  with  him  vanish  help  and  hope  of  help. 

They  have  caught  me  in  the  cavern  where  I  fell, 

Covered  my  loudest  cry  for  human  aid 

With  this  enormous  paving-stone  of  shame. 

Well,  are  we  demigods  or  merely  clay?  1405 

Is  success  still  attendant  on  desert  ? 

Is  this,  we  live  on,  heaven  and  the  final  state. 

Or  earth  which  means  probation  to  the  end  ? 

Why  claim  escape  from  man's  predestined  lot 

Of  being  beaten  and  baffled  ?  —  God's  decree,  1410 

In  which  I,  bowing  bruised  head,  acquiesce. 

One  of  us  Franceschini  fell  long  since 

r  the  Holy  Land,  betrayed,  tradition  runs, 

To  Paynims  bv  the  feigning  of  a  girl 

He  rushed  to  free  from  ravisher,  and  found  1415 

Lay  safe  enough  with  friends  in  ambuscade 

Who  flayed  him  while  she  clapped  her  hands  and  laughed : 


Let  me  end,  falling  by  a  like  device. 
It  will  not  be  so  hard.    I  am  the  last 

O^  my  line  which  will  not  suffer  any  more.  1420 

I  have  attained  to  my  full  fifty  years, 
(About  the  average  of  us  all,  ^t  is  said, 
Though  it  seems  longer  to  the  unlucky  man) 
—  Lived  through  my  share  of  life ;  let  all  end  here, 
Me  and  the  house  and  grief  and  shame  at  once.  1425 

Friends  my  informants,  —  I  can  bear  your  blow!  ^' 
And  I  believe  \  was  in  no  unmeet  match 
For  the  stoic^s  mood,  with  something  like  a  smile, 
That,  when  morose  December  roused  me  next, 
I  took  into  my  hand,  broke  seal  to  read  1430 

The  new  epistle  from  Rome.     "  All  to  no  use! 
Whatever  die  turn  next  injury  take,'^  smiled  I, 
^^  Kerens  one  has  chosen  his  part  and  knows  his  cue. 
I  am  done  with,  dead  now ;  strike  away,  good  friends! 
Are  the  three  suits  decided  in  a  trice?  1435 

Against  me, —  there  ^s  no  question!    How  does  it  go? 
Is  the  parentage  of  my  wife  demonstrated 
Infamous  to  her  wbh  r    Parades  she  now 
Loosed  of  the  cincture  that  so  irked  the  loin? 
Is  the  last  penny  extracted  from  my  purse  1440 

To  mulct  me  for  demanding  the  first  pound 
Was  promised  in  return  for  value  paid? 
Has  the  priest,  with  nobody  to  court  beside. 
Courted  the  Muse  in  exile,  hitched  my  hap 
Into  a  rattling  ballad-rhyme  which,  bawled  1445 

At  tavern-doors,  wakes  rapture  everywhere. 
And  helps  cheap  wine  down  throat  this  Christmas  time. 
Beating  the  ba^ipes  ?    Any  or  all  of  these ! 
As  well,  sood  mends,  you  cursed  my  palace  here 
To  its  Ola  cold  stone  face,  —  stuck  your  cap  for  crest        1450 
Over  the  shield  that 's  extant  in  the  Square,  — 
Or  spat  on  the  statue^s  cheek,  the  impatient  world 
Sees  cumber  tomb-top  in  our  iBsimily  church : 
Let  him  creep  under  covert  as  I  shall  do. 
Half  below-ground  already  indeed.    Good-bye!  1455 

My  brothers  are  priests,  and  childless  so ;  that's  well — 
And,  thank  God  most  for  this,  no  child  leave  I  — 
None  after  me  to  bear  till  his  heart  break 
The  being  a  Franceschini  and  my  son!  " 

"  Nay,"  said  the  letter,  "  but  you  have  just  that!  1460 

A  babe,  your  veritable  son  and  heir — 

Lawful.  —  H  is  only  eight  months  since  your  wife 

Left  you, — so,  son  and  heir,  your  babe  was  born 

Last  Wednesday  in  the  villa, — you  see  the  cause 



For  quitting  Convent  without  beat  of  drum,  1465 

Stealing  a  hurried  march  to  this  retreat 

That  ^s  not  so  savage  as  the  Sisterhood 

To  slips  and  stumbles :  Pietro^s  heart  is  soft, 

Violante  leans  to  pity's  side,  —  the  pair 

Ushered  you  into  life  a  bouncing  boy :  1470 

And  he 's  already  hidden  away  and  safe 

From  any  claim  on  him  you  mean  to  make  — 

They  need  him  for  themselves,  —  don't  fear,  they  know 

The  use  o'  the  bantling,  —  the  nerve  thus  laid  bare 

To  nip  at,  new  and  nice,  with  finger-nail!  ^  1475 

Then  I  rose  up  like  fire,  and  fire-like  roared. 

What,  all  is  only  beginnin|;  not  ending  now  ? 

The  worm  which  wormed  its  way  from  skin  through  flesh 

To  the  bone  and  there  lay  biting,  did  its  best,  — 

What,  it  ^oes  on  to  scrape  at  the  bone's  self,  1480 

Will  wind  to  inmost  marrow  and  madden  me? 

There 's  to  be  yet  my  representative. 

Another  of  the  name  shall  keep  displayed 

The  flag  with  the  ordure  on  it,  brandish  still 

The  broken  sword  has  served  to  stir  a  jakes?  1485 

Who  will  he  be,  how  will  you  call  the  man? 

A  Franceschini,  —  when  who  cut  my  purse. 

Filched  my  name,  hemmed  me  round,  hustled  me  hard 

As  rogues  at  a  fair  some  fool  they  strip  i'  the  midst, 

When  these  count  gains,  vaunt  pillage  presently :  —  1490 

But  a  Caponsacchi,  oh,  be  very  sure! 

When  what  demands  its  tribute  of  applause 

Is  the  cunnine  and  impudence  o'  the  pair  of  cheats. 

The  lies  and  mst  o'  the  mother,  and  the  brave 

Bold  carriage  of  the  priest,  worthily  crowned  149S 

By  a  witness  to  his  feat  i'  the  following  age,  — 

And  how  this  three-fold  cord  could  hook  and  fetch 

And  land  leviathan  that  king  of  pride! 

Orsay,  by  some  mad  miracle  of  chance. 

Is  he  indeed  my  flesh  and  blood,  this  babe?  1500 

Was  it  because  fate  forged  a  link  at  last 

Betwixt  my  wife  and  me,  and  both  alike 

Found  we  had  henceforth  some  one  thing  to  love. 

Was  it  when  she  could  damn  my  soul  indeed 

She  unlatched  door,  let  all  the  devils  o'  the  dark  1505 

Dance  in  on  me  to  cover  her  escape  ? 

Why  then,  the  surplusage  of  disgrace,  the  spilth 

Over  and  above  the  measure  of  infamy, 

Failing  to  take  effect  on  my  coarse  fiesh 

Seasoned  with  scorn  now,  saturate  with  shame, —  15 10 

Is  saved  to  instil  on  and  corrode  the  brow, 


The  baby-softness  of  my  first-bom  child  — 

The  child  I  had  died  to  see  though  in  a  dream, 

The  child  I  was  bid  strike  out  for,  beat  the  wave 

And  baffle  the  tide  of  troubles  where  I  swam,  1515 

So  I  mieht  touch  shore,  lay  down  life  at  last 

At  the  feet  so  dim  and  distant  and  divine 

Of  the  apparition,  as  \  were  Mary^s  Babe 

Had  held,  through  night  and  storm,  the  torch  aloft,  — 

Bom  now  in  verv  de^  to  bear  this  brand  1520 

On  forehead  and  curse  me  who  could  not  save! 

Rather  be  the  town  talk  true,  square^s  jest,  street^s  jeer 

True,  my  own  inmost  heart's  confession  true. 

And  he  the  priest's  bastard  and  none  of  mine! 

Ay,  there  was  cause  for  flight,  swift  flight  and  sure!  1525 

The  husband  gets  unruly,  breaks  all  bounds 

When  he  encounters  some  familiar  face, 

Fashion  of  feature,  brow  and  eyes  and  lips 

Where  he  least  looked  to  find  them,  —  time  to  fly! 

This  bastard  then,  a  nest  for  him  is  made,  1530 

As  the  manner  is  of  vermin,  in  my  flesh : 

Shall  I  let  the  filthy  pest  buzz,  flap  and  sting. 

Busy  at  my  vitals  and,  nor  hand  nor  foot 

Lift,  but  let  be,  lie  still  and  rot  resigned? 

No,  I  appeal  to  God, — what  says  Himself,  1535 

How  lessons  Natm^  when  I  look  to  learn? 

Why,  that  I  am  alive,  am  still  a  man 

With  brain  and  heart  and  ton&;ue  and  right-hand  too — 

Nay,  even  with  Mends,  in  such  a  cause  as  this, 

To  right  me  if  I  fail  to  take  my  right.  1540 

No  more  of  law ;  a  voice  beyond  the  law 

Enters  my  heart,  Quis  est  pro  Domino  f  * 

Myself,  in  my  own  Vittiano,  told  the  tale 

To  my  own  serving-people  summoned  there : 

Told  the  first  half  of  it,  scarce  heard  to  end  1545 

By  judges  who  got  done  with  judgment  quick 

And  clamored  to  go  execute  her  'nest — 

Who  cried  "  Not  one  of  us  that  dig  your  soil 

And  dress  your  vineyard,  prune  your  olive-trees. 

But  would  nave  brained  the  man  debauched  our  wife,        1550 

And  staked  the  wife  whose  lust  allured  the  man. 

And  paunched  the  Duke,  had  it  been  possible. 

Who  ruled  the  land  yet  barred  us  such  revenge! " 

I  fixed  on  the  first  wnose  eyes  caught  mine,  some  four 

Resolute  youngsters  with  tne  heart  still  fresh,  1555 

Filled  my  purse  with  the  residue  o'  the  coin 

^  Quis  est  pro  Domino  :  who  is  on  the  Lord's  side  } 


Uncaught-up  by  my  wife  whom  haste  made  blind^ 

Donned  the  first  rough  and  rural  garb  I  found, 

Took  whatsoever  weapon  came  to  hand. 

And  out  we  flung  and  on  we  ran  or  reeled  1560 

Romeward.     I  have  no  memory  of  our  way, 

Only  that,  when  at  intervals  the  cloud 

Of  horror  about  me  opened  to  let  in  life, 

I  listened  to  some  song  in  the  ear,  some  snatch 

Of  a  legend,  relic  of  religion,  stray  1565 

Fragment  of  record  very  strong  and  old 

Of  the  first  conscience,  the  anterior  right. 

The  GodVgift  to  mankind,  impulse  to  quench 

The  antagonistic  spark  of  hell  and  tread 

Satan  and  all  his  malice  into  dust,  1570 

Declare  to  the  world  the  one  law,  right  is  right. 

Then  the  cloud  re-enco'mpassed  me,  and  so 

I  found  myself,  as  on  the  wings  of  winds. 

Arrived :  I  was  at  Rome  on  Christmas  Eve.  ,   ^ 

•  Festive  bells  —  everywhere  the  Feast  o'  the  Babe,  '  1575 

Joy  upon  earth,  peace  and  good  will  to  man! 
I  am  baptized.     I  started  and  let  drop 
The  dagger.     "  Where  is  it.  His  promised  peace  ? '' 
Nine  days  o^  the  Birth-Feast  did  I  pause  and  pray 
To  enter  into  no  temptation  more.  1580 

I  bore  the  hateful  house,  my  brother's  once, 
Deserted,  —  let  the  ghost  of  social  joy 
Mock  and  make  mouths  at  me  from  empty  room 
And  idle  door  that  missed  the  master's  step,  — 
Bore  the  ifrank  wonder  of  incredulous  eyes,  1585 

As  my  own  people  watched  without  a  word, 
Waited,  from  where  they  huddled  round  the  hearth 
Black  like  all  else,  that  nod  so  slow  to  come. 
I  stopped  my  ears  even  to  the  inner  call 
Of  the  dread  duty,  only  heard  the  song  1590 

"  Peace  upon  earth,"  saw  nothing  but  the  face 
O'  the  Holy  Infant  and  the  halo  there 
Able  to  cover  yet  another  face 
Behind  it,  Satan's  which  I  else  should  see. 
But,  day  by  day,  joy  waned  and  withered  off:  1595 

The  Babels  face,  premature  with  peak  and  pine, 
Sank  into  wrinkled  ruinous  old  age, 
Suffering  and  death,  then  mist-like  disappeared. 
And  showed  only  the  Cross  at  end  of  all, 
Left  nothing  more  to  interpose  'twixt  me  1600 

And  the  dread  duty  :  for  the  angels'  song, 
"  Peace  upon  earth,"  louder  and  louder  pealed 
'*  O  Lord,  how  long,  how  long  be  unavenged  ?  " 

covirr  GuiDO  FRAprcEscHim.  iSi 

On  the  ninth  day,  this  grew  too  much  for  man. 

I  started  up  —  "  Some  end  must  be! "    At  once,  1605 

Silence :  then,  scratching  like  a  death-watch-tick. 

Slowly  within  my  brain  was  syllabled, 

"  One  more  concession,  one  decisive  way 

And  but  one,  to  determine  thee  the  truth,  — 

This  way,  in  fine,  I  whisper  in  thy  ear :  1610 

Now  doubt,  anon  decide,  thereupon  act! ^' 

<<  That  is  a  way,  thou  whisperest  in  my  earl 

I  doubt,  I  will  decide,  then  act,"  said  I  — 

Then  beckoned  my  companions :  ^'  Time  is  come!  ^ 

And  so,  all  yet  uncertain  save  the  will  161 5 

To  do  right,  and  the  daring  au£;ht  save  leave 

Right  undone,  I  did  find  myseU*  at  last 

r  the  dark  before  the  villa  with  my  friends, 

And  made  the  experiment,  the  final  test. 

Ultimate  chance  that  ever  was  to  be  1620 

For  the  wretchedness  inside.    I  knocked,  pronounced 

The  name,  the  predetermined  touch  for  truth, 

"  What  welcome  for  the  wanderer?    Open  straight  —  " 

To  the  friend,  physician,  friar  upon  his  rounds, 

Traveller  belated,  beggar  lame  and  blind?  1625 

No,  but  — "  to  Caponsacchi! "    And  the  door 


And  then,  —  why,  even  then,  I  think, 
r  the  minute  that  confirmed  my  worst  of  fears, 
Surelv,  —  I  pray  God  that  I  think  aright!  — 
Had  but  Pompilia^s  self,  the  tender  thing  1630 

Who  once  was  good  and  pure,  was  once  my  lamb 
And  lay  in  my  bosom,  had  the  well-known  shape 
Fronted  me  in  the  door-way, — stood  there  faint 
With  the  recent  pang  perhaps  of  giving  birth 
To  what  might,  though  by  miracle,  seem  my  child,  —       1635 
Nay  more,  I  will  say,  had  even  the  aged  fool 
Pietro,  the  dotard,  in  whom  folly  and  age 
Wrought,  more  than  enmity  or  malevolence. 
To  practise  and  conspire  against  my  peace,  — 
Had  either  of  these  but  opened,  I  had  paused.  1640 

But  it  was  she  the  hag,  she  that  brought  hell 
For  a  dowry  with  her  to  her  husband^s  house, 
She  the  mock-mother,  she  that  made  the  match 
And  married  me  to  perdition,  spring  and  source 
O'  the  fire  inside  me  that  boiled  up  from  heart  1645 

To  brain  and  hailed  the  Fury  gave  it  birth,  — 
Violante  Comparini,  she  it  was. 
With  the  old  grin  amid  the  wrinkles  yet, 


Opened :  as  if  in  turnin|^  from  the  Cross, 
With  trust  to  keep  the  sight  and  save  my  soul,  1650 

I  had  stumbled,  first  thing,  on  the  serpent^s  head 
Coiled  with  a  leer  at  foot  of  it.  I  U  /L  i 

There  was  the  end!     '  ^  ^ 
Then  was  I  rapt  away  by  the  impulse,  one 
Immeasurable  everlasting  wave  of  a  need 
To  abolish  that  detested  life.    ^T  was  done:  1655 

You  know  the  rest  and  how  the  folds  o'  the  thing, 
Twisting  for  help,  involved  the  other  two 
More  or  less  serpent-like :  how  I  was  mad, 
Blind,  stamped  on  all,  the  earth-worms  with  the  asp, 
And  ended  so. 

You  came  on  me  that  night,  1660 

Your  officers  of  justice,  —  caught  the  crime 
In  the  first  natural  frenzy  of  remorse? 
Twenty  miles  off,  sound  sleeping  as  a  child 
On  a  cloak  i^  the  straw  which  promised  shelter  first. 
With  the  bloody  arms  beside  me, — was  it  not  so?  1665 

Wherefore  not?    Why,  how  else  should  I  be  found? 
I  was  my  own  self,  had  my  sense  again. 
My  soul  safe  from  the  serpents.     I  could  sleep: 
Indeed  and,  dear  my  lords,  I  shall  sleep  now. 
Spite  of  my  shoulder,  in  five  minutes'  space,  1670 

When  you  dismiss  me,  having  truth  enough! 
It  is  but  a  few  days  are  passed,  I  find. 
Since  this  adventure.     Do  you  tell  me,  four? 
Then  the  dead  are  scarce  quiet  where  they  lie. 
Old  Pietro,  old  Violante,  side  by  side  1675 

At  the  church  Lorenzo,  —  oh,  they  know  it  well! 
So  do  I.     But  my  wife  is  still  alive. 
Has  breath  enough  to  tell  her  story  yet, 
Her  way,  which  is  not  mine,  no  doubt  at  all. 
And  Caponsacchi,  you  have  summoned  him, —  1680 

Was  he  so  far  to  send  for?    Not  at  hand? 
I  thought  some  few  o'  the  stabs  were  in  his  heart, 
Or  had  not  been  so  lavish :  less  had  served. 
Well,  he  too  tells  his  story,  —  florid  prose 
As  smooth  as  mine  is  rough.     You  see,  my  lords,  1685 

There  will  be  a  lying  intoxicating  smoke 
Born  of  the  blood,  —  confusion  probably,  — 
For  lies  breed  lies —  but  all  that  rests  with  you! 
The  trial  is  no  concern  of  mine ;  with  me 
The  main  of  the  care  is  over:  I  at  least  1690 

Recognize  who  took  that  huge  burthen  off, 
Let  me  begin  to  live  again.     I  did 
God's  bidding  and  man's  duty,  so,  breathe  free ; 
Look  you  to  the  rest!    I  heard  Himself  prescribe. 


That  great  Physician,  and  dared  lance  the  core  1695 

Of  the  bad  ulcer ;  and  the  rage  abates, 

I  am  myself  and  whole  now :  I  prove  cured 

By  the  eyes  that  see,  the  ears  that  hear  again, 

The  limbs  that  have  releamed  their  youthful  play, 

The  healthy  taste  of  food  and  feel  of  clothes  1700 

And  taking  to  our  common  life  once  more. 

All  that  now  urges  my  defenqe  from  death. 

The  willinfi;ness  to  live,  what  means  it  else? 

Before,  —  but  let  the  very  action  speak! 

Judge  for  yourselves,  what  life  seemed  worth  to  me  1705 

Who,  not  by  proxy  but  in  person,  pitched 

Head-foremost  into  danger  as  a  fool 

That  never  cares  if  he  can  swim  or  no  — 

So  he  but  find  the  bottom,  braves  the  brook. 

No  man  omits  precaution,  quite  neglects  1710 

Secrecy,  safety,  schemes  not  how  retreat, 

Having  schemed  he  might  advance.    Did  I  so  scheme? 

Why,  with  a  warrant  which  \  is  ask  and  have. 

With  horse  thereby  made  mine  without  a  word, 

I  had  gained  the  frontier  and  slept  safe  that  ni&;ht.  1715 

Then,  my  companions,  —  call  them  what  you  {Mease, 

Slave  or  stipendiary, — what  need  of  one 

To  me  whose  right-hand  did  its  owner's  work? 

Hire  an  assassin  yet  expose  yourself? 

As  well  buy  glove  and  then  thrust  naked  hand  1720 

V  the  thorn-bush.    No,  the  wise  man  stays  at  home, 

Sends  only  agents  out,  with  pay  to  earn : 

At  home,  when  they  come  baclc,  —  he  straight  discards 

Or  else  disowns.    Why  use  such  tools  at  all 

When  a  man's  foes  are  of  his  house,  like  mine,  1725 

Sit  at  his  board,  sleep  in  his  bed  ?    Why  noise, 

When  there's  the  acquetta  and  the  silent  way? 

Clearly  my  life  was  valueless. 

But  now      /''/  V^ 
Health  is  returned,  and  sanity  of  soul 

Nowise  indifferent  to  the  body's  harm.  1730 

I  find  the  instinct  bids  me  save  my  life ; 
My  wits,  too,  rally  round  me ;  I  pick  up 
And  use  the  arms  that  strewed  the  ground  before, 
Unnoticed  or  spumed  aside :  I  take  my  stand, 
Make  my  defence.    God  shall  not  lose  a  life  1735 

May  do  Him  further  service,  while  I  speak 
And  you  hear,  you  my  judges  and  last  hope! 
You  are  the  law :  't  is  to  the  law  I  look. 
I  began  life  by  hanging  to  the  law. 
To  the  law  it  is  I  hang  till  life  shall  end.  1740 



My  brother  made  appeal  to  the  Pope,  \  is  tnie, 

To  stay  proceedings,  judge  my  cause  himself 

Nor  trouble  law, — some  fondness  of  conceit 

That  rectitude,  sagacity  sufficed 

The  investigator  in  a  case  like  mine,  1745 

Dispensed  with  the  machine  of  law.    The  Pope 

Knew  better,  set  aside  my  brother^s  plea 

And  put  me  back  to  law,  —  referred  the  cause 

Adjudices  meos}^  —  doubtlessly  did  well. 

Here,  then,  I  clutch  my  judges,  —  I  claim  law —  1750 

Cry,  by  the  higher  law  whereof  your  law 

O'  the  land  is  humbly  representative,  — 

Cry,  on  what  point  is  it,  where  either  accuse, 

I  fail  to  furnish  you  defence  ?    I  stand 

Acquitted,  actuaJly  or  virtually,  1755 

By  every  intermediate  kind  of  court 

That  takes  account  of  right  or  wrong  in  man, 

Each  unit  in  the  series  that  begins 

With  God^s  throne,  ends  with  the  tribunal  here. 

God  breathes,  not  speaks,  his  verdicts,  felt  not  heard,       1760 

Passed  on  successively  to  each  court  I  call 

Man^s  conscience,  custom,  manners,  all  that  make 

More  and  more  effort  to  promulgate,  mark 

God^s  verdict  in  determinable  words, 

Till  last  come  human  jurists  —  solidify  1765 

Fluid  result,  —  what 's  fixable  lies  forged. 

Statute, — the  residue  escapes  in  fiime, 

Yet  hangs  aloft,  a  cloud,  as  palpable 

To  the  finer  sense  as  word  the  legist  ^  welds. 

Justinian's  Pandects  •  only  make  precise  1770 

What  simply  sparkled  in  men's  eyes  before. 

Twitched  in  their  brow  or  quivered  on  their  lip. 

Waited  the  speech  they  called  but  would  not  come. 

These  courts  then,  whose  decree  your  own  confirms,— 

Take  my  whole  life,  not  this  last  act  alone,  1775 

Look  on  it  by  the  light  reflected  thence! 

What  has  Society  to  charge  me  with  ? 

Come,  unreservedly,  —  favor  none  nor  fear,  — 

I  am  Guido  Franceschini,  am  I  not? 

You  know  the  courses  I  was  free  to  take?  1780 

I  took  just  that  which  let  me  serve  the  Church, 

I  gave  it  all  my  labor  in  body  and  soul 

Till  these  broke  down  i'  the  service.    "Specify?" 

Well,  my  last  patron  was  a  Cardinal. 

*  Adjudices  meos  :  to  my  judges. 

*  Legist :  a  lawyer. 

s  yustintatCs  Pandects :  the  digest  of 
Roman  jurists  made  by  order  of  Justinian  in 
the  sixth  century. 


I  left  him  unconvicted  of  a  fault  —  1785 

Was  even  helped,  by  way  of  gratitude, 

Into  the  new  life  that  I  left  him  for, 

This  very  misery  of  the  marriage, — he 

Made  it,  kind  soul,  so  far  as  in  him  lay  — 

Signed  the  deed  where  you  yet  may  see  his  name.  1790 

He  is  gone  to  his  reward,  —  dead,  being  my  friend 

Who  could  have  helped  here  also,  —  that,  of  course! 

So  far,  there  *s  my  accjuittal,  I  suppose. 

Then  comes  the  marriage  itself —  no  question,  lords, 

Of  the  entire  validity  of  that !  1795 

In  the  extremity  of  distress,  ^t  is  true. 

For  after-reasons,  furnished  abundantly, 

I  wished  the  thing  invalid,  went  to  you 

Only  some  months  since,  set  you  duly  forth 

My  wrong  and  prayed  your  remedy,  that  a  cheat  1800 

Should  not  have  force  to  cheat  my  whole  life  long. 

"  Annul  a  marriage ?    T  b  impossible! 

Though  ring  about  your  neck  be  brass  not  gold. 

Needs  must  it  clasp,  gangrene  you  all  the  same! " 

Well,  let  me  have  the  benefit,  just  so  far,  1805 

O'  the  fact  announced, — my  wife  then  is  my  wife, 

I  have  allowance  for  a  husband^s  right. 

I  am  charged  with  passing  right's  due  bound,  —  such  acts 

As  I  thought  just,  my  wife  called  cruelty, 

Complained  of  in  due  form,  — convoked  no  court  18 10 

Of  common  gossipry,  but  took  her  wrongs  — 

And  not  once,  but  so  long  as  patience  served — 

To  the  town's  top,  jurisdiction's  pride  of  place. 

To  the  Archbishop  and  the  Governor. 

These  heard  her  charge  with  my  reply,  and  found  1815 

That  futile,  this  sufficient :  they  dismissed 

The  hysteric  querulous  rebel,  and  confirmed 

Authority  in  its  wholesome  exercise. 

They,  with  directest  access  to  the  fects. 

" —  Ay,  for  it  was  their  friendship  favored  you,  1820 

Hereditary  alliance  against  a  breach 

r  the  social  order :  prejudice  for  the  name 

Of  Franceschini ! "  —  So  I  hear  it  said : 

But  not  here.     You,  lords,  never  will  you  say 

"  Such  is  the  nullity  of  grace  and  truth,  1825 

Such  the  corruption  of  the  faith,  such  lapse 

Of  law,  such  warrant  have  the  Molinists 

For  daring  reprehend  us  as  they  do,  — 

That  we  pronounce  it  just  a  common  case, 

Two  dignitaries,  each  in  his  degree  1830 

First,  foremost,  this  the  spiritual  head,  and  that 

The  secular  arm  o'  the  body  politic, 


Should,  for  mere  wrongs*  love  and  injustice*  sake, 

Side  with,  aid  and  abet  in  cruelty 

This  broken  beggarly  noble,  —  bribed  perhaps  1835 

By  his  watered  wine  and  mouldy  crust  of  bread  — 

Rather  than  that  sweet  tremulous  flower-like  wife 

Who  kissed  their  hands  and  curled  about  their  feet 

Looking  the  irresistible  loveliness 

In  tears  that  takes  man  captive,  turns**  .  .  .  enough!       1840 

Do  you  blast  your  predecessors?    What  forbids 

Posterity  to  trebly  blast  yourselves 

Who  set  the  example  and  instruct  their  tongue? 

You  dreaded  the  crowd,  succumbed  to  the  popular  cry, 

Or  else,  would  nowise  seem  defer  thereto  1845 

And  yield  to  public  clamor  though  i*  the  right! 

You  ridded  your  eye  of  my  unseemliness. 

The  noble  whose  misfortune  wearied  you,  — 

Or,  what  *s  more  probable,  made  common  cause 

With  the  cleric  section,  punished  in  myself  1850 

Maladroit  uncomplaisant  laity. 

Defective  in  behavior  to  a  priest 

Who  claimed  the  customaiy  partnership 

I*  the  house  and  the  wife.    Lords,  any  lie  wiU  serve! 

Look  to  it, — or  allow  me  freed  so  far!  1855 

Then  I  proceed  a  step,  come  with  clean  hands      1  C  {^\ 

Thus  for,  re-tell  the  tale  told  eight  months  since.    ^ 

The  wife,  you  allow  so  for,  I  have  not  wronged. 

Has  fled  my  roof,  plundered  me  and  decamped 

In  company  with  the  priest  her  paramour :  i860 

And  I  gave  chase,  came  up  with,  caught  the  two 

At  the  wayside  inn  where  both  had  spent  the  night, 

Found  them  in  flagrant  fault,  and  found  as  well, 

By  documents  with  name  and  plan  and  date. 

The  fault  was  furtive  then  that*s  flagrant  now,  1865 

Their  intercourse  a  long  established  crime. 

I  did  not  take  the  license  law^s  self  gives 

To  slay  both  criminals  o*  the  spot  at  the  time, 

But  held  my  hand,  —  preferred  play  prodigy 

Of  patience  which  the  world  calls  cowardice,  1870 

Rather  than  seem  anticipate  the  law 

And  cast  discredit  on  its  organs,  —  you. 

So,  to  your  bar  I  brought  both  criminals. 

And  made  my  statement :  heard  their  counter-charge. 

Nay,  —  their  corroboration  of  my  tale,  1875 

Nowise  disputing  its  allegements,  not 

V  the  main,  not  more  than  nature's  decency 

Compels  men  to  keep  silence  in  this  kind,  — 

Only  contending  that  the  deeds  avowed 


Would  take  another  color  and  bear  excuse.  1880 

You  were  to  judge  between  us ;  so  you  did. 

You  disregard  the  excuse,  you  breathe  away 

The  color  of  innocence  and  leave  guilt  blaoc, 

*<  Guilty  "  is  the  decision  of  the  court, 

And  that  I  stand  in  consequence  untouched,  1885 

One  white  integrity  from  head  to  heel. 

Not  guilty?    Why  then  did  you  punish  them? 

True,  punishment  has  been  inadequate  — 

'T  is  not  I  only,  not  my  Mends  that  joke, 

My  foes  that  jeer,  who  echo  "  inadequate  " —  1890 

For,  by  a  chance  that  comes  to  help  for  once. 

The  same  case  simultaneously  was  judged 

At  Arezzo,  in  the  province  of  the  Court 

Where  the  crime  had  its  beginning  but  not  end. 

They  then,  deddinjg;  on  but  naif  0*  the  crime,  1895 

The  effraction,  robberyj  —  features  of  the  wSX 

I  never  cared  to  dwell  upon  at  Rome,  — 

What  was  it  they  adjudged  as  penalty 

To  Pompilia, — the  one  criminal  0'  the  pair 

Amenable  to  their  judgment,  not  the  pnest  1900 

Who  is  Rome's  ?    Why,  just  imprisonment  for  life 

r  the  Stinche.^    There  was  Tuscany's  award 

To  a  wife  that  robs  her  husband:  you  at  Rome — 

Having  to  deal  with  adultery  in  a  wife 

And,  in  a  priest,  breach  of  the  priestly  vow —  1905 

Give  gentle  sequestration  for  a  month 

In  a  manageable  Convent,  then  release, 

You  call  imprisonment,  in  the  very  house 

O'  the  very  couple,  which  the  aim  and  end 

Of  the  culprits'  crime  was  — just  to  reach  and  rest  1910 

And  there  take  solace  and  defy  me :  well,  — 

This  difference  'twixt  their  penalty  and  yours 

Is  immaterial :  make  your  penalty  less  — 

Merely  that  she  should  henceforth  wear  black  gloves 

And  white  fan,  she  who  wore  the  opposite  —  191 5 

Why,  all  the  same  the  fact  o'  the  thing  subsists. 

Reconcile  to  your  conscience  as  you  may. 

Be  it  on  your  own  heads,  you  pronounced  but  half 

O'  the  penalty  for  heinousness  like  hers 

And  his,  that  pays  a  fault  at  Carnival  1920 

Of  comfit-pelting  past  discretion's  law, 

Or  accident  to  handkerchief  in  Lent 

Which  falls  perversely  as  a  lady  kneels 

Abruptly,  and  but  half  conceals  her  neck! 

I  acquiesce  for  my  part :  punished,  though  1925 

>  Sttnche  :  a  prison. 


By  a  pin-point  scratch,  means  guilty :  guilty  meuis 
—  What  have  I  been  but  innocent  nithertor 
Anyhow,  here  the  offence,  being  punished,  ends. 


Ends?  —  for  you  deemed  so,  did  you  not,  sweet  lords? 

That  was  throughout  the  veritable  aim  1950 

O^  the  sentence  light  or  heavy,  —  to  redress 

Recognized  wrong?    You  righted  me,  I  think? 

Well  then,  —  what  if  I,  at  this  last  of  all, 

Demonstrate  you,  as  my  whole  pleading  proves. 

No  particle  of  wrong  received  tnereby  1935 

One  atom  of  right?  —  that  cure  grew  worse  disease? 

That  in  the  process  you  call  "justice  done" 

All  along  you  have  nipped  awav  just  inch 

By  inch  the  creeping  climbing  length  of  plague 

Breaking  my  tree  oflife  from  root  to  brandi,  1940 

And  left  me,  after  all  and  every  act 

Of  your  interference,  —  lightened  of  what  load? 

At  liberty  wherein  ?    Mere  Words  and  wind! 

"  Now  I  was  saved,  now  I  should  feel  no  more 

The  hot  breath,  find  a  respite  from  fixed  eye  1945 

And  vibrant  tongue! "    Why,  scarce  your  back  was  turned. 

There  was  the  reptile,  that  feigned  death  at  first, 

Renewing  its  detested  spire  and  spire 

Around  me^  rising  to  such  heights  of  hate 

That,  so  far  from  mere  purpose  now  to  crush  1950 

And  coil  itself  on  the  remains  of  me. 

Body  and  mind,  and  there  flesh  fang  content, 

Its  aim  is  now  to  evoke  life  from  death, 

Make  me  anew,  satisfy  in  my  son 

The  hunger  I  may  feed  but  never  sate,  1955 

Tormented  on  to  perpetuity, — 

My  son,  whom,  dead,  I  shall  know,  understand, 

Feel,  hear,  see,  never  more  escape  the  sight 

In  heaven  that  ^s  turned  to  hell,  or  hell  returned 

(So  rather  say)  to  this  same  earth  again, —  i960 

Moulded  into  the  image  and  made  one. 

Fashioned  of  soul  as  featured  like  in  face. 

First  taught  to  laugh  and  lisp  and  stand  and  go 

By  that  thief,  poisoner  and  adulteress 

I  call  Pompilia,  he  calls  .  .  .  sacred  name,  1965 

Be  unpronounced,  be  unpolluted  here! 

And  last, led  up  to  the  glory  and  prize  of  hate 

By  his  .  .  .  foster-father,  Caponsacchi's  self, 

The  perjured  priest,  pink  of  conspirators. 

Tricksters  and  knaves,  vet  polished,  superfine,  1970 

Manhood  to  model  adolescence  by! 

Lords,  look  on  me,  declare,  —  when,  what  I  show. 

couirr  GuiDo  frai^ceschwi.  189 

Is  nothing  more  nor  less  than  what  you  deemed 

And  doled  me  out  for  justice,  —  what  did  you  say? 

For  reparation,  restitution  and  more,  —  1975 

Will  you  not  thank,  praise,  bid  me  to  your  breasts 

For  having  done  the  thing  you  thought  to  do, 

And  thoroughly  trampled  out  sin's  life  at  last  ? 

I  have  heightened  phrase  to  make  your  soft  speech  serve, 

Doubled  the  blow  you  but  essayed  to  strike,  1980 

Carried  into  effect  your  mandate  here 

That  else  had  fallen  to  ground :  mere  duty  done. 

Oversight  of  the  master  just  supplied 

By  zeal  i^  the  servant.     I,  being  used  to  serve. 

Have  simply  .  .  .  what  is  it  they  charge  me  with?  1985 

Blackened  again,  made  legible  once  more 

Your  own  decree,  not  permanently  writ, 

Rightlv  conceived  but  all  too  faintly  traced. 

It  reacfs  efficient,  now,  comminatory, 

A  terror  to  the  wicked,  answers  so  1990 

The  mood  o^  the  magistrate,  the  mind  of  law. 

Absolve,  then,  me,  law's  mere  executant! 

Protect  your  own  defender,  —  save  me.  Sirs  I 

Give  me  my  life,  give  me  my  liberty. 

My  good  name  and  my  civic  rights  again!  1995 

It  would  be  too  fond,  too  complacent  play 

Into  the  hands  o'  the  devil,  should  we  lose 

The  game  here,  I  for  God :  a  soldier-bee  ^ 

That  yields  his  life,  exenterate  ^  with  the  stroke 

O'  the  sting  that  saves  the  hive.    I  need  that  life.  2000 

Oh,  never  fear!    1 11  find  life  plenty  use 

Though  it  should  last  five  years  more,  aches  and  all! 

For,  first  thing,  there 's  the  mother's  age  to  help  — 

Let  her  come  break  her  heart  upon  my  breast 

Not  on  the  blank  stone  of  my  nameless  tomb!  2005 

The  fugitive  brother  has  to  be  bidden  back 

To  the  old  routine,  repugnant  to  the  tread. 

Of  daily  suit  and  service  to  the  Church,  — 

Thro'  gibe  and  jest,  those  stones  that  Shimei  flung! 

Ay,  and  the  spirit-broken  youth  at  home,  2010 

The  awe-struck  altar-ministrant,  shall  make 

Amends  for  faith  now  palsied  at  the  source, 

Shall  see  truth  yet  triumphant,  justice  yet 

A  victor  in  the  battle  of  this  world! 

Give  me  —  for  last,  best  gift  —  my  son  again,  2015 

Whom  law  makes  mine,  —  I  take  him  at  your  word, 

^  Soldier-hee  :   a  bee  that  fights  for  the        *  Extnttrate  :  disembowelled, 
protection  of  the  hive  and  sacrifices  his  life 
tm  ibe  act  ^  using  his  sting. 


Mine  be  he^  by  miraculous  merqr^  lords! 

Let  me  lift  up  his  youth  and  innocence 

To  purify  my  palace,  room  by  room 

Purged  of  the  memories,  lend  from  his  bright  brow  2020 

Light  to  the  old  proud  paladin  my  sire 

Shrunk  now  for  shame  into  the  darkest  shade 

O^  the  tapestry,  showed  him  once  and  shrouds  him  now! 

Then  may  we,  —  strong  from  that  rekindled  smile,  — 

Go  forward,  face  new  times,  the  better  day.  2025 

And  when,  in  times  made  better  through  your  brave 

Decision  now,  —  might  but  Utopia  be!  — 

Rome  rife  with  honest  women  and  strong  men, 

Manners  reformed,  old  habits  back  once  more, 

Customs  that  recognize  the  standard  worth,  —  2030 

The  wholesome  household  rule  in  force  again. 

Husbands  once  more  God's  representative. 

Wives  like  the  typical  Spouse  once  more,  and  Priests 

No  longer  men  of  Belial,  with  no  aim 

At  leadmg  silly  women  captive,  but  2035 

Of  rising  to  such  duties  as  yours  now,  — 

Then  will  I  set  my  son  at  my  right-hand 

And  tell  his  father's  story  to  this  point. 

Adding  ^  The  task  seemed  superhuman,  still 

I  dared  and  did  it,  trusting  God  and  law :  2040 

And  thev  approved  of  me :  give  praise  to  both! " 

And  if,  for  answer,  he  shall  stoop  to  kiss 

My  hand,  and  peradventure  start  thereat,  — 

I  engage  to  smile  "  That  was  an  accident 

r  the  necessary  process,  — just  a  trip  2045 

O'  the  torture-irons  in  their  search  for  truth,  — 

Hardly  misfortune,  and  no  fault  at  all." 




[Book  VI.  gives  the  story  from  Caponsacchi's  point  of  view,  and,  moreover,  car- 
ries with  every  word  the  direct  impress  of  his  personality,  so  that  the  verity  of  his 
account,  the  essential  quality  of  Pompilia's  influence  upon  his  character,  and  the 
inmost  nature  both  of  his  service  to  her  and  his  love  for  her  are  clearly  and  con- 
vincingly revealed.] 

Answer  you,  Sirs?    Do  I  understand  aright? 

Have  patience  ?    In  this  sudden  smoke  from  hell,  — 

So  things  disguise  themselves,  —  I  cannot  see 

My  own  hand  held  thus  broad  before  my  face 

And  know  it  again.    Answer  you?    Then  that  means  5 

Tell  over  twice  what  I,  the  first  time,  told 

Six  months  ago :  \  was  here,  I  do  believe, 

Fronting  you  same  three  in  this  very  room, 

I  stood  and  told  you :  vet  now  no  one  laughs, 

Who  then  .  ,  .  nay,  aear  my  lords,  but  laugh  you  did,         10 

As  good  as  laugh,  what  in  a  judge  we  style 

Laughter — no  levity,  nothing  indecorous,  lords! 

Only,  —  I  think  I  apprehend  the  mood : 

There  was  the  blameless  shrug,  permissible  smirk, 

The  pen^s  pretence  at  play  with  the  pursed  mouth,  15 

The  titter  stifled  in  the  hollow  palm 

Which  rubbed  the  eyebrow  and  caressed  the  nose, 

When  I  first  told  my  tale :  they  meant,  you  know, 

"  The  sly  one,  all  this  we  are  bound  believe! 

Well,  he  can  say  no  other  than  what  he  says.  20 

We  have  been  young,  too,  —  come,  there 's  greater  guilt! 

Let  him  but  decently  disembroil  himself, 

Scramble  from  out  the  scrape  nor  move  the  mud,  — 

We  solid  ones  may  risk  a  finger-stretch! " 

And  now  you  sit  as  grave,  stare  as  aghast  25 

As  if  I  were  a  phantom :  now  't  is  —  "  Friend, 

Collect  yourself ! "  —  no  laughing  matter  more  — 

"  Counsel  the  Court  in  this  extremity. 

Tell  us  again ! "  —  tell  that,  for  telling  which, 

I  got  the  jocular  piece  of  punishment,  30 

"V^  sent  to  lounge  a  little  in  the  place 

Whence  now  of  a  sudden  here  you  summon  me 

To  take  the  intelligence  from  just  —  your  lips! 

You,  Judge  Tommati,  who  then  tittered  most,  — 

192  THE  RIl^G  AND  THE  BOOK. 

That  she  I  helped  eight  months  since  to  escape  35 

Her  husband,  was  retaken  b^  the  same. 

Three  days  ago,  if  I  have  seized  your  sense,  — 

(I  being  disallowed  to  interfere, 

Meddle  or  make  in  a  matter  none  of  mine, 

For  you  and  law  were  guardians  q^uite  enough  40 

O'  the  innocent,  without  a  pert  pnest's  hel^^  — 

And  that  he  has  butchered  her  accordingly, 

As  she  foretold  and  as  myself  believed,  — 

And,  so  foretelling  and  believing  so. 

We  were  punished,  both  of  us,  tne  merry  way :  45 

Therefore,  tell  once  again  the  tale!    For  what? 

Pompilia  is  only  dying  while  I  speak! 

Why  does  the  mirth  hang  fire  and  miss  the  smile? 

My  masters,  there  *s  an  old  book,  you  shoidd  con 

For  strange  adventures,  applicable  vet,  50 

^T  is  stufied  with.    Do  you  know  that  there  was  once 

This  thing :  a  multitude  of  worthy  folk 

Took  recreation,  watched  a  certain  group 

Of  soldiery  intent  upon  a  game,  — 

How  first  they  wrangled,  but  soon  fell  to  play,  55 

Threw  dice,  —  the  best  diversion  in  the  world. 

A  word  in  your  ear, — they  are  now  casting  lots^ 

Ay,  with  that  gesture  quaint  and  cry  uncouth, 

For  the  coat  of  One  ^  murdered  an  hour  ago! 

I  am  a  priest,  —  talk  of  what  I  have  learned.  60 

Pompilia  is  bleeding  out  her  life  belike. 

Gasping  away  the  latest  breath  of  all. 

This  minute,  while  I  talk  —  not  while  you  laugh? 

Yet,  being  sobered  now,  what  is  it  you  ask  Co 

^By  way  of  explanation  ?    There 's  the  fact!  65 

:  It  seems  to  fill  the  universe  with  sight 
.  And  sound,  —  from  the  four  corners  of  this  earth 

Tells  itself  over,  to  my  sense  at  least. 
j  But  you  may  want  it  lower  set  i'  the  scale,  — 

Too  vast,  too  close  it  clangs  in  the  ear,  perhaps ;  70 

You  M  stand  back  just  to  comprehend  it  more. 
.Well  then,  let  me,  the  hollow  rock,  condense 

The  voice  o'  the  sea  and  wind,  interpret  you 

The  mystery  of  this  murder.    God  above! 

It  is  too  paltry,  such  a  transference  75 

P'  the  storm's  roar  to  the  cranny  of  the  stone! 

This  deed,  you  saw  begin  —  why  does  its  end 
Surprise  you  ?    Why  snould  the  event  enforce 


Casting  hU  .  .  .  for  thi  C0at  of  One :  Matthew  xxvii.  35. 


The  lesson,  we  ourselves  learned,  she  and  I, 

From  the  first  o^  the  fact,  and  taught  you,  all  in  vain?  80 

This  Guido  from  whose  throat  you  took  my  grasp. 

Was  this  man  to  be  favored,  now,  or  feared, 

Let  do  his  will,  or  have  his  will  restrained, 

In  the  relation  with  Pompilia?    Say! 

Did  any  other  man  need  interpose  85 

—  Oh,  though  first  comer,  though  as  strange  at  the  work 

As  fribble  must  be,  coxcomb,  fool  that  ^s  near 

To  knave  as,  say,  a  priest  who  fears  the  world  — 

Was  he  bound  brave  the  peril,  save  the  doomed, 

Or  go  on,  sin^  his  snatch  and  pluck  his  flower,  90 

Keep  the  straight  path  and  let  the  victim  die? 

I  held  so ;  you  decided  otherwise. 

Saw  no  such  peril,  therefore  no  such  need 
[To  stop  song,  loosen  flower,  and  leave  path.    Law, 
HLaw  was  aware  and  watching,  would  suffice,  95 

Wanted  no  priesf  s  intrusion,  palpably 

Pretence,  too  manifest  a  subterfii^el 

Whereupon  I,  priest,  coxcomb,  fnbble  and  fool, 

Ensconced  me  in  my  comer,  thus  rebuked, 

A  kind  of  culprit,  over-zealous  hound  100 

Kicked  for  his  pains  to  kennel ;  I  gave  place, 

To  you,  and  let  the  law  reign  paramount : 

I  left  Pompilia  to  your  watch  and  ward. 

And  now  you  point  me  —  there  and  thus  she  lies! 

Men,  for  the  last  time,  what  do  you  want  with  me?  105 

Is  it, — you  acknowledge,  as  it  were,  a  use, 
A  profit  in  employing  me?  — at  length 
I  may  conceivablv  hdp  the  august  law? 
I  am  free  to  break  the  blow,  next  hawk  that  swoops 
On  next  dove,  nor  miss  much  of  good  repute?  no 

Or  what  if  this  your  summons,  after  all. 
Be  but  the  form  of  mere  release,  no  more, 
Which  turns  the  key  and  lets  the  captive  go? 
I  have  paid  enough  in  person  at  Civita, 

Am  free,  —  what  more  need  I  concern  me  with?  115 

Thank  you!    I  am  rehabilitated  then, 
A  very  reputable  priest.    But  she  — 
The  glory  of  life,  the  beauty  of  the  world. 
The  splendor  of  heaven,  .  .  .  well.  Sirs,  does  no  one  move? 
Do  I  speak  ambiguously?    The  glory,  I  say,  120 

And  the  beauty,  I  say,  and  splendor,  still  sav  I, 
'  Who,  priest  and  trained  to  live  my  whole  life  long 
On  beauty  and  splendor,  solely  at  their  source, 
God,  —  have  thus  recognized  mv  food  in  her. 
You  tell  me,  that^s  fast  dying  while  we  talk,  12^ 


Pompilia!    How  does  lenity  to  me, 

Remit  one  death-bed  pang  to  her?    Come,  smile! 

The  proper  wink  at  the  hot-headed  youth 

Who  lets  his  soul  show,  through  transparent  words, 

The  mundane  love  that  ^s  sin  and  scandal  too!  130 

You  are  all  struck  acquiescent  now,  it  seems : 

It  seems  the  oldest,  gravest  signor  here. 

Even  the  redoubtable  Tommati,  sits 

Chop-fallen,  —  understands  how  law  might  take 

Service  like  mine,  of  brain  and  heart  and  hand,  135 

In  good  part.     Better  late  than  never,  law 

You  understand  of  a  sudden,  gospel  too 

Has  a  claim  here,  may  possiblv  pronounce 

Consistent  with  my  priesthood,  worthy  Christ, 

That  I  endeavored  to  save  Pompilia? 

Then,  140 

You  were  wrong,  you  see :  that  *s  well  to  see,  though  late :      ' 
That 's  all  we  may  expect  of  man,  this  side 
The  grave :  his  good  is  —  knowing  he  is  bad : 
Thus  will  it  be  with  us  when  the  books  ope 
And  we  stand  at  the  bar  on  judgment-day.  145 

Well  then,  I  have  a  mind  to  speak,  see  cause 
To  relume  the  quenched  flax  by  this  dreadful  light, 
Bum  my  soul  out  in  showing  you  the  truth. 
I  heard,  last  time  I  stood  here  to  be  judged. 
What  is  priest'sKluty,  —  labor  to  pluck  tares  150 

And  weed  the  com  of  Molinism ;  let  me 
Make  you  hear,  this  time,  how,  in  such  a  case, 
Man,  be  he  in  the  priesthood  or  at  plough, 
Mindful  of  Christ  or  marching  step  by  step 
With  .  .  .  what 's  his  style,  the  other  potentate  155 

Who  bids  have  courage  and  keep  honor  safe, 
Nor  let  minuter  admonition  tease? — 
How  he  is  bound,  better  or  worse,  to  act. 
Earth  will  not  end  through  this  misjudgment,  no! 
For  you  and  the  others  iflce  you  sure  to  come,  160 

Fresh  work  is  sure  to  follow,  —  wickedness 
That  wants  withstanding.    Many  a  man  of  blood. 
Many  a  man  of  guile  will  clamor  yet. 
Bid  you  redress  his  grievance,  —  as  he  cKitched 
The  prey,  forsooth  a  stranger  stepped  between,  165 

And  there 's  the  good  gripe  in  pure  waste!    My  part 
Is  done ;  i'  the  doing  it,  I  pass  away 
Out  of  the  world.     I  want  no  more  with  earth. 
Let  me,  in  heaven's  name,  use  the  very  snuff 
O'  the  taper  in  one  last  spark  shall  show  truth  170 

For  a  moment,  show  Pompilia  who  was  true! 


Not  for  her  sake,  but  yours :  if  she  is  dead. 
Oh,  Sirs,  she  can  be  loved  by  none  of  you 
Most  or  least  priestly!    Saints,  to  do  us  good, 

fust  be  in  heaven,  I  seem  to  understand :  175 

e  never  find  them  saints  before,  at  least, 
i  her  first  prayer  then  presently  for  you  — 
le  has  done  the  good  to  me  .  .  . 

What  is  all  this? 
There,  I  was  bom,  have  lived,  shall  die,  a  fool! 
This  is  a  foolish  outset :  —  might  with  cause  180 

Give  color  to  the  very  lie  o'  the  man. 
The  murderer,  — make  as  if  I  loved  his  wife. 
In  the  way  he  called  love.    He  is  the  fool  there! 
Why,  had  there  been  in  me  the  touch  of  taint, 
I  had  picked  up  so  much  of  knaves^-policy  185 

As  hide  it,  keep  one  hand  pressed  on  the  place 
Suspected  of  a  spot  would  damn  us  both. 
Or  no,  not  her!  —  not  even  if  any  of  you 
Dares  think  that  I,  i^  the  face  of  death,  her  death 
That  ^s  in  my  eyes  and  ears  and  brain  and  heart,  190 

Lie,  —  if  he  does,  let  him !    I  mean  to  say. 
So  he  stop  there,  stay  thought  from  smirching  her 
The  snow-white  soul  that  angels  fear  to  take 
Untenderly.    But,  all  the  same,  I  know 
I  too  am  taintless,  and  I  bare  my  breast.  195 

You  can^t  think,  men  as  you  are,  all  of  you, 
But  that,  to  hear  thus  suddenlv  such  an  end 
Of  such  a  wonderful  white  soul,  that  comes 
Of  a  man  and  murderer  calling  the  white  black. 
Must  shake  me,  trouble  and  disadvantage.    Sirs,  200 

Only  seventeen! 

Why,  ^ood  and  wise  you  are!      '-?  ^ 
You  might  at  the  beginnmg  stop  my  mouth : 
So,  none  would  be  to  speak  for  her,  that  knew. 
I  talk  impertinently,  and  you  bear, 

All  the  same.    This  it  is  to  have  to  do  205  - 

With  honest  hearts :  they  easily  may  err, 
L  But  in  the  main  they  wish  well  to  the  truth. 
You  are  Christians ;  somehow,  no  one  ever  plucked 
A  rag,  even,  from  the  body  of  the  Lord, 
To  wear  and  mock  with,  but,  despite  himself,  210 

He  looked  the  greater  and  was  the  better.    Yes, 
I  shall  go  on  now.     Does  she  need  or  not 
I  keep  calm  ?    Calm  I  Ul  keep  as  monk  that  croons 
Transcribing  battle,  earthquake,  famine,  plague. 
From  parchment  to  his  cloister's  chronicle.  215 

Not  one  word  more  from  the  point  now! 

196  THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK.  ^  ^ 

YeSy  I  am  one  of  your  body  and  a  priest. 

Also  I  am  a  younger  son  o*  the  House 

Oldest  now,  greatest  once,  in  my  birth-town 

Arezzo,  I  recognize  no  equal  there  —  320 

(I  want  all  arguments,  all  sorts  of  arms 

That  seem  to  serve,  — use  this  for  a  reason^  wait!) 

Not  therefore  thrust  into  the  Church,  because 

O^  the  piece  of  bread  one  gets  there.    We  were  first 

Of  Fiesole,  that  rings  still  with  the  £une  225 

Of  Capo-in-Sacco  ^  our  progenitor : 

When  Florence  ruined  Fiesole,  our  folk 

Migrated  to  the  victor-city,  and  there 

Flourished,  —  our  palace  and  our  tower  attest, 

In  the  Old  Mercato,^  —  this  was  years  ago,  230 

Four  hundred,  full,  —  no,  it  wants  fourteen  just. 

Our  arms  are  those  of  Fiesole  itself 

The  shield  quartered  with  white  and  red :  a  branch 

Are  the  Salviati  of  us,  nothing  more. 

That  were  good  help  to  the  Church?    But  better  still  —     235 

Not  simply  for  the  advantage  of  my  birth 

V  the  way  of  the  world,  was  I  proposed  for  priest ; 

But  because  there  ^s  an  illustration,  late 

r  the  day,  that  ^s  loved  and  looked  to  as  a  saint 

Still  in  Arezzo,  he  was  bishop  of  240 

Sixty  years  since :  he  spent  to  the  last  doit 

His  bishop's-revenue  among  the  poor. 

And  used  to  tend  the  needy  and  the  sick, 

Barefoot,  because  of  his  humility. 

He  it  was,  —  when  the  Granduke  Ferdinand  *  245 

Swore  he  would  raze  our  city,  plough  the  place 

And  sow  it  with  salt,  because  we  Axetines 

Had  tied  a  rope  about  the  neck,  to  hale 

The  statue  of  his  father  from  its  base 

For  haters  sake,  —  he  availed  by  prayers  and  tears  250 

To  pacify  the  Duke  and  save  the  town. 

This  was  my  father^s  father's  brother.     You  sec, 

For  his  sake,  how  it  was  I  had  a  rieht 

To  the  self-same  office,  bishop  in  the  egg. 

So,  grew  i'  the  garb  and  prattled  in  the  school,  255 

Was  made  expect,  from  infancy  almost. 

The  proper  mood  o'  the  priest ;  till  time  ran  by 

And  brought  the  day  when  I  must  read  the  vows, 

>  Capo-in-Sacco  :  •  Mercato  :  market  (sec  preceding  note). 

"  Already  had  Caponsacco  to  the  Market  ^Ferdinand:  Ferdinand  II.,  Grandnluke 

Prom  Fiesole  descended."  of  Tuscany,  X63X-X670,  one  of  the  Medici. 
(Dante's  **  Paradiso,"  zvi.  xax.) 


Declare  the  world  renounced  and  undertake 

To  become  priest  and  leave  probation,  —  leap  260 

Over  the  ledge  into  the  other  life, 

Having  gone  trippingly  hitherto  up  to  the  height 

O^er  the  wan  water.    Just  a  vow  to  read! 

I  stopped  short  awe-struck.    ''  How  shall  holiest  flesh    ' 
Engage  to  keep  such  vow  inviolate,  265 

How  much  less  mine  ?  *  I  know  myself  too  weak, 
I^Unworthy  I    Choose  a  worthier  stronger  man! " 
And  the  very  Bishop  smiled  and  stopped  my  mouth 
In  its  mid-protestation.    <<  Incapable  ? 

Qualmish  of  conscience ?    Thou  ingenuous  boy!  270 

Clear  up  the  clouds  and  cast  thy  scruples  £ur! 
I  satisfy  thee  there  's  an  easier  sense 
Wherem  to  take  such  vow  than  suits  the  first 
Rough  ridd  reading.    Mark  what  makes  all  smooth. 
Nay,  has  been  even  a  solace  to  myself!  275 

The  Jews  who  needs  must,  in  theur  synagogue, 
Utter  sometimes  the  holy  name  of  God, 
A  thing  their  superstition  boggles  at, 
Pronounce  aloud  the  ineffable  sacrosanct,^ — 
How  does  their  shrewdness  help  them  ?    In  this  wise ;       280 
Another  set  of  sounds  they  substitute, 
Jumble  so  consonants  ana  vowels  —  how 
Should  I  know? — that  there  grows  from  out  the  old 
Quite  a  new  word  that  means  the  very  same  — 
And  o^er  the  hard  place  slide  they  with  a  smile.  285 

Giuseppe  Maria  Caponsacchi  mine. 
Nobody  wants  you  in  these  latter  days 
To  prop  the  Church  by  breaking  your  back-bone,  «> 
As  the  necessary  way  was  once,  we  know. 
When  Diocletian  ^  flourished  and  his  like.  290 

That  building  of  the  buttress-work  was  done 
y  martyrs  and  confessors :  let  it  bide,       * 
Add  not  a  brick,  but,  where  you  see  a  chink, 
Stick  in  a  sprig  of  ivy  or  root  a  rose 

1  make  amends  and  beautify  the  pile!  295 

We  profit  as  you  were  the  painmllest 
O'  the  mart)rrs,  and  you  prove  yourself  a  match 
For  the  cruelest  confessor  ever  was, 
If  you  march  boldly  up  and  take  your  stand 
Wnere  their  blood  soaks,  their  bones  yet  strew  the  soil,      300 
And  cry  *  Take  notice,  I  the  young  and  free 

1  Saeroaanci  :  the  Hebrews,  regarding  *  DwcUtian  :  the  Roman  Emperor  (a84r 
die  Sscred  Name  aa  unspeakable,  substitute  305)  under  whom  the  last  persecutions  of  the 
Adonai  for  ^ahwi  in  reading.  Christians  were  held. 

198         THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK. 

And  well-to-do  i^  the  world,  thus  leave  the  wcnrld, 

Cast  in  my  lot  thus  with  no  gay  young  world 

But  the  grand  old  Church  :  she  tempts  me  of  the  two! ' 

Renounce  the  world ?    Nay,  keep  and  give  it  us!  305 

Let  us  have  you,  and  boast  of  what  you  bring. 

We  want  the  pick  o'  the  earth  to  practise  with, 

Not  its  offscouring,  halt  and  deaf  and  blind 

In  soul  and  body.     There  ^s  a  rubble-stone 

Unfit  for  the  front  o'  the  builcfing,  stuff  to  stow  310 

In  a  gap  behind  and  keep  us  weather-tight ; 

There 's  porphyry  for  the  prominent  place.     Good  lack! 

Saint  Paul  has  had  enough  and  to  spare,  I  trow, 

Of  ragged  run-away  Onesimus :  ^ 

He  wants  the  right-hand  with  the  signet-ring  315 

Of  King  Agrippa,'^  now,  to  shake  and  use. 

I  have  a  heavy  scholar  cloistered  up, 

Close  under  lock  and  key,  kept  at  his  task 

Of  letting  F^nelon  *  know  the  fool  he  is, 

In  a  book  I  promise  Christendom  next  Spring.  320 

Why,  if  he  covets  so  much  meat,  the  clown, 

As  a  lark's  wing  next  Friday,  or,  any  day, 

Diversion  beyond  catching  his  own  fleas. 

He  shall  be  properly  swinged,  I  promise  him. 

But  you,  who  are  so  quite  another  paste  325 

Of  a  man, —  do  you  obey  me  ?    Cultivate 

Assiduous  that  superior  gift  you  have 

Of  making  madrigals —  (who  told  me  ?    Ah!) 

Get  done  a  Marinesque  Adoniad  *  straight 

With  a  pulse  o'  the  blood  a-pricking,  here  and  there,  330 

That  I  may  tell  the  lady  *  And  he 's  ours! ' " 

,     f     So  I  became  a  priest :  those  terms  changed  all,      ^  ^  "^ 
!  I  was  good  enough  for  that,  nor  cheated  so ; 
|l  could  live  thus  and  still  hold  head  erect, 
i^ow  you  see  why  I  may  have  been  before  335 

A  fribble  and  coxcomb,  yet,  as  priest,  l^reak  word 
Nowise,  to  make  you  disbelieve  me  now. 
I  need  that  you  should  know  my  truth.    Well,  then, 
According  to  prescription  did  I  live, 

—  Conformed  myself,  both  read  the  breviary  340 

And  wrote  the  rhymes,  was  punctual  to  my  place 
r  the  Pieve,*  and  as  diligent  at  my  post 

"^Onesimus:  Philemon,  verses  zz,  z8.  "Adone"  of  Giovanni  Battista  Marino  (or 

*  Agrippa  :  Acts  xxvii.  Marini) ,  published  in  Z633,  and  veiy  popular 
'  Finelon  :  the  French  preacher  and  arch-    during  the  seventeenth  century. 

bishop  of  Cambrai  (Z65Z-175Z)  who  adopted         ^  Pieve :    Sta.  Maria  della  Pieve,  one  of 
the  mystical  doctrines  of  Molinos.  the  principal  parish  churches  in  Areszo. 

*  A  Marinesque  A  doniad  :  alluding  to  the 


Where  beauty  and  fashion  rule.    I  throve  apace. 

Sub-deacon,  Canon,  the  authority 

For  delicate  plav  at  tarocs,^  and  arbiter  345 

O*  the  magnituae  of  &n-mounts :  all  the  while 

Wanting  no  whit  the  advantage  of  a  hint 

Benignant  to  the  promising  pupil, — thus : 

<<  Enough  attention  to  the  Countess  now. 

The  young  one ;  \  is  her  mother  rules  the  roast,  350 

We  know  where,  and  puts  in  a  word :  go  pay 

Devoir  to-morrow  morning  after  mass! 

Break  that  rash  promise  to  preach.  Passion-week! 

Has  it  escaped  you  the  Archbishop  fi;runts 

And  snuffles  when  one  grieves  to  teU  his  Grace  355 

No  soul  dares  treat  the  sujbect  of  the  dav 

Since  his  own  masterly  handling  it  (ha,  na!^ 

Five  years  ago,  —  when  somebody  could  help 

And  touch  up  an  odd  phrase  in  time  of  need, 

(He,  he!)  — and  somebody  helps  you,  my  son!  360 

Therefore,  don't  prove  so  mdispensable 

At  the  Pieve,  sit  more  loose  i'  tibe  seat,  nor  grow 

A  fixture  by  attendance  mom  and  eve! 

Arezzo  's  just  a  haven  midway  Rome  — 

Rome 's  the  eventual  harbor,  —  make  for  port,  365 

Crowd  sail,  crack  cordage!    And  your  cargo  be 

A  polished  presence,  a  genteel  manner,  wit 

At  will,  and  tact  at  every  pore  of  you! 

I  sent  our  lump  of  learmn^.  Brother  Clout, 

And  Father  Slouch,  our  piece  of  piety,  370 

To  see  Rome  and  try  suit  the  Cardinal. 

Thither  they  clump-clumped,  beads  and  book  in  hand. 

And  ever  since  \  is  meat  for  man  and  maid 

How  both  flopped  down,  prayed  blessing  on  bent  pate 

Bald  many  an  inch  beyond  the  tonsure's  need,  375 

Never  once  dreaming,  the  two  moony  dolts. 

There 's  nothing  moves  his  Eminence  so  much 

As  —  far  from  3l  this  awe  at  sanctitude — 

Heads  that  wag,  eyes  that  twinkle,  modified  mirth 

At  the  closet-lectures  on  the  Latin  tongue  380 

A  lady  learns  so  much  by,  we  know  where. 

Why,  body  o'  Bacchus,  you  should  crave  his  rule 

For  pauses  in  the  elegiac  couplet,  chasms 

Permissible  only  to  Catullus! 2    There! 

Now  go  to  duty :  brisk,  break  Priscian's  head  *  385 

^  TVirofx  .*  a  card  game.  ^  Break    Priscian**  head:    break    the 

'  Catullus  :  the  Latin  poet,  especially  dis-  rules  of  classical  Latin  grammar,  on  which 

tinguished  for  the  el^ance  and  polish  of  his  Prisdan  was  the  most  famous  ancient  author- 

verse  (87-47  b*c).  ity. 

300  THE  RmO  AI^D  THE  BOOK. 

By  reading  the  day^s  office — there 's  no  help. 
You  Ve  Ovid  ^  in  your  poke  to  plaster  that ; 
Amen  ^s  at  the  end  of  all :  then  sup  with  me!  *' 

Well,  after  three  or  four  years  of  this  life,     J 
In  prosecution  of  my  calling,  I  390 

Found  myself  at  the  theatre  one  night 
With  a  brother  Canon,  in  a  mood  and  mind 
Proper  enough  for  the  place,  amused  or  no : 
^hen  I  saw  enter,  stand,  and  seat  herself 
A  lady,  young,  tall,  beautiful,  strange  and  sad.  395 

It  was  as  when,  in  our  cathedral  once. 
As  I  got  yawningly  through  matin-song, 
I  s2iVi  facMni^  bear  a  burden  up. 
Base  It  on  the  high-altar,  break  away 

A  board  or  two,  and  leave  the  thing  inside  400 

Lofty  and  lone :  and  lo,  when  next  I  looked, 
There  was  the  Rafael!    I  was  still  one  stare, 
When  —  "  Nay,  I  '11  make  her  give  you  back  your  gaze  " — 
Said  Canon  Conti ;  and  at  the  wora  he  tossed 
A  paper-twist  of  comfits  to  her  lap,  405 

And  dodged  and  in  a  trice  was  at  my  back 
Nodding  from  over  my  shoulder.    Then  she  turned, 
Looked  our  way,  smiled  the  beautiful  sad  strange  smile. 
"  Is  not  she  fair?    'T  is  my  new  cousin,"  said  he : 
"  The  fellow  lurking  there  i'  the  black  o'  the  box  410 

Is  Guido,  the  old  scapegrace :  she 's  his  wife, 
Married  three  years  smce :  how  his  Countship  sulks! 
He  has  brought  little  back  from  Rome  beside, 
After  the  bragging,  bullying.    A  fair  face, 
And  —  they  do  say  —  a  pocketful  of  gold  41 5 

When  he  can  worry  both  her  parents  dead. 
I  don't  go  much  there,  for  the  chamber 's  cold 
And  the  coffee  pale.    I  got  a  turn  at  first 
Paying  my  duty :  I  observed  they  crouched 

^ — The  two  old  frightened  family  spectres  —  close  420 

\  In  a  corner,  each  on  each  like  mouse  on  mouse 

[I'  the  cat's  cage :  ever  since,  I  stay  at  home. 

^allo,  there 's  Guido,  the  black,  mean  and  small. 
Bends  his  brows  on  us —  please  to  bend  your  own 
On  the  shapely  nether  limbs  of  Light-skirts  there  425 

By  way  of  a  diversion!    I  was  a  fool 
To  fling  the  sweetmeats.    Prudence,  for  God's  love! 

^Ovid:   distinctively  a   secular  favorite        ^Facchini:  portcn. 
among  Latin  poets  (43  b.c.>i8  a.d.)  because 
of  his  love  themes  and  tales  of  Pagan  gods. 


To-morrow  PU  make  my  peace,  e^en  tell  some  fib. 
Try  if  I  can't  find  means  to  take  you  there." 

;  C 

That  night  and  next  day  did  the  gaze  endure,      U  ->  430 

Burnt  to  my  brain,  as  sunbeam  thro'  shut  eyes, 

And  not  once  changed  the  beautiful  sad  strange  smile. 

~At  vespers  Conti  leaned  beside  my  seat 

r  the  choir,  —  part  said,  part  sung — "/«  ex-cel-sis  — 

All 's  to  no  purpose ;  I  have  louted  low,  435 

But  he  saw  you  staring — quia  sub  —  don't  incline 

To  know  you  nearer :  him  we  would  not  hold 

For  Hercules,  —  the  man  would  lick  your  shoe 

If  you  and  certain  efficacious  friends 

Managed  him  warily,  —  but  there 's  the  wife :  440 

Spare  her,  because  ne  beats  her,  as  it  is. 

She 's  breaking  her  heart  quite  fast  enough  — jam  tu  — 

So,  be  you  rational  and  make  amends 

With  little  Light-skirts  yonder — in  secula 

SecU'lO'0-o-(hrum,^    Ah,  you  rogue !    Every  one  knows      445 

What  great  dame  she  makes  jesdous :  one  against  one. 

Play,  and  win  both! " 

Sirs,  ere  the  week  was  out, 
I  saw  and  said  to  myself  <<  Light-skirts  hides  teeth 
Would  make  a  dog  sick, — the  great  dame  shows  spite 
Should  drive  a  cat  mad :  't  is  but  poor  work  this  —  450 

Counting  one's  fingers  till  the  sonnet 's  crowned. 
I  doubt  much  if  Marino  ^  really  be 
A  better  bard  than  Dante  after  all. 
'T  is  more  amusing  to  go  pace  at  eve. 

I'  the  Duomo,  —  watch  the  day's  last  gleam  outside  455 

Turn,  as  into  a  skirt  of  God's  own  rol^. 
Those  lancet-windows'  jewelled  miracle,  — 
Than  go  eat  the  Archbishop's  ortolans, 
Digest  his  jokes.     Luckily  Lent  is  near : 
Who  cares  to  look  will  find  me  in  my  stall  460 

At  the  Pieve,  constant  to  this  faith  at  least  — 
Never  to  write  a  canzonet'  any  more." 

So,  next  week,  't  was  my  patron  spoke  abrupt,    ^ ' 

In  altered  guise.     "Young  man,  can  it  be  true 

That  after  all  your  promise  of  sound  finit,  565 

You  have  kept  away  from  Countess  young  or  old 

"^Inexcelsis  ,  .  .  steula  secular  um  :  the  ''Adonis"  already  refened  to  (1.  323),  and 
gloria  chanted  at  the  end  of  each  Psalm;  in  who  was  famed  in  his  day  (1569)  and  patron- 
Latin  in  Roman  Catholic  churches,  in  Eng-  ized  by  cardinals  and  kings, 
lish  in  the  Anglican  church.  »  Canzonet :  9,  pne-,  two-,  or  three-part 

*  Af^riw ;  tb«  Italian  poet,  who  wrote  the  9Qn^, 


And  gone  play  truant  in  church  all  day  long? 

Are  you  turning  Molinist?  ^'    I  answered  quick : 

"  Sir,  what  if  I  turned  Christian?    It  might  be. 

The  fact  is,  I  am  troubled  in  my  mind,  470 

Beset  and  pressed  hard  by  some  novel  thoughts. 

This  your  Arezzo  is  a  limited  world ; 

There 's  a  strange  Pope,  —  't  is  said,  a  priest  who  thinks. 

Rome  is  the  po^  you  say :  to  Rome  I  eo. 

I  will  live  alone,  one  does  so  in  a  crowd,  475 

And  look  into  my  heart  a  little. ^^    <<  Lent 

Ended,"  —  I  told  friends  —  "  I  shall  go  to  Rome." 

One  evening  I  was  sitting  in  a  muse  ^   \    -^ 

Over  the  opened  "  Summa,"  ^  darkened  round 
By  the  mid-March  twilight  thinking  how  my  life  480 

Had  shaken  under  me,  —  broke  short  indeea 
And  showed  the  gap  ^twixt  what  is,  what  should  be,  — 
And  into  what  abysm  the  soul  may  slip. 
Leave  aspiration  here,  achievement  there. 
Lacking  omnipotence  to  connect  extremes  —  485 

Thinking  moreover  ...  oh,  thinking,  if  you  like, 
How  utterly  dissociated  was  I 
A  priest  and  celibate,  from  the  sad  strange  wife 
Of  Guido, — just  as  an  instance  to  the  point. 
Nought  more,  —  how  I  had  a  whole  store  of  strengths        490 
Eating  into  my  heart,  which  craved  employ. 
And  she,  perhaps,  need  of  a  finger's  help,  — 
And  yet  there  was  no  way  in  the  wide  world 
To  stretch  out  mine  and  so  relieve  myself  — 
How  when  the  page  o'  the  Summa  preached  its  best,  495 

Her  smile  kept  glowing  out  of  it,  as  to  mock 
The  silence  we  could  break  by  no  one  word,  — 
There  came  a  tap  without  the  chamber-door. 
And  a  whisper ;  when  I  bade  who  tapped  speak  out. 
And,  in  obedience  to  my  summons,  last  500 

In  glided  a  masked  muffled  mystery. 
Laid  lightly  a  letter  on  the  opened  book. 
Then  stood  with  folded  arms  and  foot  demure, 
Pointing  as  if  to  mark  the  minutes'  flight. 

I  took  the  letter,  read  to  the  effect  -  ^ '  -  505 

That  she,  I  lately  flung  the  comfits  to. 

Had  a  warm  heart  to  give  me  in  exchange. 

And  gave  it,  —  loved  me  and  confessed  it  thus. 

And  bade  me  render  thanks  by  word  of  mouth, 

Going  that  night  to  such  a  side  o' the  house  510 

>  Summa  :  the  "  Summa  Theologiae,"  or  Summary  of  Theology,  of  Thomas  Aquinas. 


Where  the  small  terrace  overhangs  a  street 
Blind  and  deserted,  not  the  street  in  front : 
Her  husband  being  away,  the  surly  patch. 
At  his  villa  of  Vittiano. 

'-    ?.  '-^ 
"  And  you  ?  "  —  I  asked :    ^ . 

"  What  may  you  be  ?  "    "  Count  Guido's  kind  of  maid  —    515 

Most  of  us  have  two  functions  in  his  house. 

We  all  hate  him,  the  lady  suffers  much, 

^T  is  just  we  show  compassion,  furnish  help. 

Specially  since  her  choice  is  fixed  so  well. 

What  answer  may  I  bring  to  cheer  the  sweet  520 


Then  I  took  a  pen  and  wrote  > 

"  No  more  of  this !    That  you  are  fair,  I  know : 
But  other  thoughts  now  occupy  my  mind. 
I  should  not  thus  have  played  the  insensible 
Once  on  a  time.    What  made  you,  —  may  one  ask,  —         525 
Marry  your  hideous  husband  ?    T  was  a  fault, 
And  now  you  taste  the  fruit  of  it.     Farewell." 

<<  There! "  smiled  I  as  she  snatched  it  and  was  gone  — 

"  There,  let  the  jealous  miscreant,  —  Guido's  self. 

Whose  mean  soul  grins  through  this  transparent  trick,  —   530 

Be  baulked  so  far,  defrauded  of  his  aim! 

What  fund  of  satisfaction  to  the  knave, 

Had  I  kicked  this  his  messen^^er  down  stairs. 

Trussed  to  the  middle  of  her  impudence. 

And  set  his  heart  at  ease  so!    No,  indeed!  535 

There  's  the  reply  which  he  shall  turn  and  twist 

At  pleasure,  snuff  at  till  his  brain  grow  drunk, 

As  the  bear  does  when  he  finds  a  scented  glove 

That  puzzles  him,  — a  hand  and  yet  no  hand. 

Of  other  perfume  than  his  own  foul  paw!  540 

Last  month,  I  had  doubtless  chosen  to  play  the  dupe, 

Accepted  the  mock-invitation,  kept 

The  sham  appointment,  cudgel  beneath  cloak. 

Prepared  myself  to  pull  the  appointer's  self 

Out  of  the  window  from  his  hiding-place  545 

Behind  the  gown  of  this  part-messenger 

Part-mistress  who  would  personate  the  wife. 

Such  had  seemed  once  a  jest  permissible :  ' 

Now  I  am  not  i'  the  mood." 

Back  next  mom  brought  - 
The  messenger,  a  second  letter  in  hand.  ^^o 


"  You  are  cruel^  Thyrsis,  and  Myrtilla*  moans 

Neglected  but  adores  you^  makes  request 

For  mercy :  why  is  it  you  dare  not  come  ? 

Such  virtue  is  scarce  natural  to  your  age. 

You  must  love  some  one  else ;  I  hear  you  do,  555 

The  Baron's  daughter  or  the  Advocate's  wife, 

Or  both,  —  all 's  one,  would  you  make  me  the  third  — 

I  take  the  crumbs  from  table  gratefully 

Nor  grudge  who  feasts  there.    'Faith,  I  blush  and  blaze! 

Yet  if  I  break  all  bounds,  there  's  reason  sure.  560 

Are  you  determinedly  bent  on  Rome  ? 

I  am  wretched  here,  a  monster  tortures  me : 

Carry  me  with  you!    Come  and  say  you  will! 

Concert  this  very  evening!     Do  not  write! 

I  am  ever  at  the  window  of  my  room  565 

Over  the  terrace,  at  the  Ave,^    Come!" 

I  questioned  —  lifting  half  the  woman's  mask       ^  ^ 

To  let  her  smile  loose.     "  So,  you  gave  my  line 

To  the  merry  lady  ?  "    "  She  kissed  off  the  wax, 

And  put  what  paper  was  not  kissed  away,  570 

In  her  bosom  to  go  burn :  but  merry,  no! 

She  wept  all  night  when  evening  brought  no  friend, 

Alone,  the  unkind  missive  at  her  breast ; 

Thus  Philomel,^  the  thorn  at  her  breast  too. 

Sings"  .  .  .  "Writes  this  second  letter?"    "Even  so!      575 

Then  she  may  peep  at  vespers  forth  ?  "  —  "  What  risk 

Do  we  run  o'  the  husband?  "  —  "Ah,  — no  risk  at  all  I 

He  is  more  stupid  even  than  jealous.     Ah  — 

That  was  the  reason?    Why,  the  man  's  away! 

Beside,  his  bugbear  is  that  friend  of  yours,  580 

Fat  little  Canon  Conti.     He  fears  him. 

How  should  he  dream  of  you  ?    I  told  you  truth : 

He  goes  to  the  villa  at  Vittiano  —  't  is 

The  time  when  Spring-sap  rises  in  the  vine  — 

Spends  the  night  there.     And  then  his  wife  's  a  child :        585 

Does  he  think  a  child  outwits  him  ?    A  mere  child : 

Yet  so  full  grown,  a  dish  for  any  duke. 

Don't  quarrel  longer  with  such  cates,  but  come!  " 

I  wrote  "In  vain  do  you  solicit  me. 

I  am  a  priest :  and  you  are  wedded  wife,  590 

Whatever  kind  of  brute  your  husband  prove. 

*  Thyrsis  and  MyrttUa  :  common  names         *  Philomel :  Philomela's  sorrows  are  sung 

in  pastoral  poetry  for  shepherd  and  maid  in  by  the  nightingale  into  whose  form  the  maiden 

love  with  each  other.  passed,  according  to  the    fable    referred   to 

^  Ave  :  Ave  Maria  or  •*  Hail  Mary/'  etc.,  here.    See  also,  Shakespeare,  "  Rape  of  Lu* 

tha  prayer  used  at  evening.  crece,"  1x35. 


I  have  scruples,  in  short.    Yet  should  you  really  show 
Sign  at  the  window  .  .  .  but  nay,  best  be  good! 
My  thoughts  are  elsewhere."    "  Take  her  that  1 " 

<^  Again 

Let  the  incarnate  meanness,  cheat  and  spy,  595 

Mean  to  the  marrow  of  him,  make  his  heart 

His  food,  anticipate  helPs  worm  once  morel 

Let  him  watch  shivering  at  the  window  ^  ay, 

And  let  this  hybrid,  this  his  light-of*love 

And  lackey-of-lies,  —  a  sage  economy,  —  600 

Paid  with  embracings  for  the  rank  brass  coin^-^ 

Let  her  report  and  make  him  chuckle  o^er 

The  break-down  of  my  resolution  now, 

And  lour  at  disappointment  in  good  time ! 

—  So  tantalize  and  so  enrage  by  turns,  605 

Until  the  two  fall  each  on  me  other  like 

Two  famished  spiders,  as  the  coveted  fly 

That  toys  lon^,  leaves  their  net  and  them  at  lastP' 

And  so  the  missives  followed  thick  and  fast 

For  a  month,  say,  —  I  still  came  at  every  turn  610 

On  the  soft  sly  adder,  endlong  'neath  my  tread. 

I  was  met  i^  the  street,  made  sign  to  in  the  church, 

A  slip  was  found  i^  the  door-sill,  scribbled  word 

'Twixt  page  and  page  o*  the  prayer-book  in  my  place. 

A  crumpled  thing  c&opped  even  before  my  feet,  615 

Pushed  through  the  blind,  above  the  terrace-rail, 

As  I  passed,  by  day,  the  very  window  once. 

And  ever  from  comers  would  be  peering  up 

The  messenger,  with  the  self-same  demand 

'^  Obdurate  still,  no  flesh  but  adamant  ?  620 

Nothing  to  cure  the  wound,  assuage  the  throe 

O'  the  sweetest  lamb  that  ever  loved  a  bear?" 

And  ever  my  one  answer  in  one  tone  — 

"  Go  your  ways,  temptress !    Let  a  priest  read,  pray, 

Unplagued  of  vain  talk,  visions  not  for  him!  625 

In  the  end,  you  '11  have  your  will  and  ruin  me! " 

One  day,  a  variation :  thus  I  read :        C-r  3  ^^ 

"  You  have  &;ained  little  by  timidity. 

My  husband  has  found  out  my  love  at  length, 

Sees  cousin  Conti  was  the  stalking-horse,  630 

And  you  the  game  he  covered,  poor  fat  soul! 

My  husband  is  a  formidable  foe. 

Will  stick  at  nothing  to  destroy  you.    Stand 

Prepared,  or  better,  run  till  you  reach  Rome! 

I  bade  you  visit  me,  when  the  last  place  635 

My  tyrant  would  have  turned  suspicious  at. 

Or  cared  to  seek  you  in,  was  .  .  .  why  say,  where? 


But  now  all  ^s  changed :  beside,  the  season  ^s  past 

At  the  villa, — wants  the  master's  eye  no  more. 

Anyhow,  I  beseech  you,  stay  away  640 

From  the  window!    He  might  well  be  posted  there." 

I  wrote  —  "  You  raise  my  courage,  or  call  up 

My  curiosity,  who  am  but  man. 

Tell  him  he  owns  the  palace,  not  the  street 

Under — that 's  his  and  yours  and  mine  alike.  645 

If  it  should  please  me  pad  the  path  this  eve, 

Guido  will  have  two  troubles,  nrst  to  get 

Into  a  rage  and  then  get  out  again. 

Be  cautious,  though :  at  the  Ave  I "  /  kT'J) 

You  of  the  Court!    ^^ 
When  I  stood  question  here  and  reached  this  point  650 

O'  the  narrative, — search  notes  and  see  and  say 
If  some  one  did  not  interpose  with  smile 
And  sneer,  "And  prithee  why  so  confident 
That  the  husband  must,  of  all  needs,  not  the  wife, 
Fabricate  thus,  —  what  if  the  lady  loved  ?  655 

What  if  she  wrote  the  letters  ? " 

Learned  Sir, 
I  told  you  there 's  a  picture  in  our  church. 
Well,  if  a  low-browed  verger  sidled  up 
Bringing  me,  like  a  blotch,  on  his  prod's  point, 
A  transfixed  scorpion,  let  the  reptile  writhe,  660 

And  then  said  "  See  a  thing  that  Rafael  made  — 
This  venom  issued  from  Madonna's  mouth!" 
I  should  reply,  "  Rather,  the  soul  of  you 
Has  issued  from  your  body,  like  from  like, 
By  way  of  the  ordure-corner! " 

But  no  less,  665 

I  tired  of  the  same  long  black  teasing  lie 
Obtruded  thus  at  every  turn ;  the  pest 
Was  far  too  near  the  picture,  anyhow : 
One  does  Madonna  service,  making  clowns 

Remove  their  dung-heap  from  the  sacristy.  670 

"  I  will  to  the  window,  as  he  tempts,"  said  I : 
"  Yes,  whom  the  easy  love  has  failed  allure, 
This  new  bait  of  adventure  tempts,  —  thinks  he. 
Though  the  imprisoned  lady  keeps  afar, 

There  will  they  lie  in  ambush,  heads  alert,  675 

Kith,  kin,  and  Count  mustered  to  bite  my  heel. 
No  mother  nor  brother  viper  of  the  brood   "^^ 
Shall  scuttle  off  without  the  instructive  bruise  !j^ 

So  I  went :  crossed  street  and  street :  "The  next  street's  turn,  '^ 
I  stand  beneath  the  terrace,  see,  above,  680 




The  black  of  the  ambush-window.    Then,  in  place 

Of  hand's  throw  of  soft  prelude  over  lute, 

And  cough  that  clears  way  for  the  ditty  last,"  — 

I  began  to  laugh  already  —  "  he  will  have 

*  Out  of  the  hole  you  hide  in,  on  to  the  front,  685 

Count  Guido  Franceschini,  show  yourself! 

Hear  what  a  man  thinks  of  a  thing  like  you, 

And  after,  take  this  foulness  in  your  face! '  *' 

The  words  lay  living  on  my  lip,  I  made       *^(  ^ 

The  one-turn  more  —  and  there  at  the  window  stood,         690 

Framed  in  its  black  square  length,  with  lamp  in  hand, 

Pompilia ;  the  same  great,  grave,  griefiul  air 

As  stands  i'  the  dusk,  on  altar  that  I  know. 

Left  alone  with  one  moonbeam  in  her  cell. 

Our  Lady  of  all  the  Sorrows.^    Ere  I  knelt —  695 

Assured  myself  that  she  was  flesh  and  blood  — 

She  had  looked  one  look  and  vanished. 

I  thought  —  "  Just  so : 
It  was  herself,  they  have  set  her  there  to  watch  — 
Stationed  to  see  some  wedding-band  go  by, 
On  fair  pretence  that  she  must  bless  the  bride,  700 

Or  wait  some  funeral  with  friends  wind  past. 
And  crave  peace  for  the  corpse  that  claims  its  due. 
She  never  dreams  they  used  her  for  a  snare, 
And  now  withdraw  the  bait  has  served  its  turn. 
Well  done,  the  husband,  who  shall  fare  the  worse! "  705 

And  on  my  lip  again  was  —  "  Out  with  thee, 
Guido! ".  When  all  at  once  she  reappeared ; 
But,  this  time,  on  the  terrace  overhead, 
So  close  above  me,  she  could  almost  touch 
My  head  if  she  bent  down ;  and  she  did  bend,  710 

While  I  stood  still  as  stone,  all  eye,  all  ear.. 


She  began — "You  have  sent  me  letters.  Sir:    " 

I  have  read  none,  I  can  neither  read  nor  write ; 

But  she  you  gave  them  to,  a  woman  here. 

One  of  the  people  in  whose  power  I  am,  715 

Partly  explained  their  sense,  I  think,  to  me 

Obliged  to  listen  while  she  inculcates 

That  you,  a  priest,  can  dare  love  me,  a  wife, 

Desire  to  live  or  die  as  I  shall  bid, 

(She  makes  me  listen  if  I  will  or  no)  720 

Because  you  saw  my  face  a  single  time. 

^  Our  Lady :  the  Virgin  Mary  painted  with  a  sword  in  her  breast  to  represent  her 
griefs,  St.  Luke  xi.  35. 



It  cannot  be  sh^^sa^s^he  thing  you  mean ; 

Such  wickedness  were  deadly  to  us  both : 

But  good  true  love  would  help  me  now  so  much  ^-o 

I  tell  myself,  you  may  mean  good  and  true.  725 

You  offer  me,  I  seem  to  understand, 

Because  I  am  in  poverty  and  starve, 

Much  money,  where  one  piece  would  save  my  life. 

The  silver  cup  upon  the  altar-cloth 

Is  neither  yours  to  give  nor  mine  to  take ;  730 

But  I  might  take  one  bit  of  bread  therefrom, 

Since  I  am  starving,  and  return  the  rest, 

Yet  do  no  harm :  this  is  my  very  case. 

I  am  in  that  strait,  I  may  not  dare  abstain 

From  so  much  of  assistance  as  would  bring  735 

The  guilt  of  theft  on  neither  you  nor  me ; 

But  no  superfluous  particle  01  aid. 

I  think,  if  you  will  let  me  state  my  case, 

Even  had  you  been  so  fancy-fevered  here. 

Not  your  sound  self,  you  must  grow  healthy  now  —  740 

Care  only  to  bestow  what  I  can  take. 

That  it  is  only  you  in  the  wide  world, 

Knowing  me  nor  in  thought  nor  word  nor  deed, 

Who,  all  unprompted  save  by  your  own  heart. 

Come  proffering  assistance  now,  —  were  strange  745 

But  that  my  whole  life  b  so  strange :  as  strange 

It  is,  my  husband  whom  I  have  not  wronged 

Should  hate  and  harm  me.    For  his  own  souPs  sake, 

Hinder  the  harm !    But  there  is  something  more, 

And  that  the  strangest :  it  has  got  to  be  750 

Somehow  for  my  sake  too,  and  yet  not  mine, 

—  This  is  a  riddle  —  for  some  kind  of  sake 

Not  any  clearer  to  myself  than  you, 

And  yet  as  certain  as  that  I  draw  breath,  — 

I  would  fain  live,  not  die  —  oh  no,  not  die!  755 

My  case  is,  I  was  dwelling  happily 

At  Rome  with  those  dear  Comparini,  called 

Father  and  mother  to  me ;  when  at  once 

I  found  I  had  become  Count  Guido's  wife : 

Who  then,  not  waiting  for  a  moment,  changed  760 

Into  a  fury  of  fire,  if  once  he  was 

Merely  a  man :  his  face  threw  fire  at  mine. 

He  laid  a  hand  on  me  that  burned  all  peace. 

All  joy,  all  hope,  and  last  all  fear  away, 

Dipping  the  bough  of  life,  so  pleasant  once,  7^5 

In  fire  which  shrivelled  leaf  and  bud  alike. 

Burning  not  only  present  life  but  past, 

Which  you  might  think  was  safe  beyond  his  reach. 

He  reached  it,  though,  since  that  beloved  pair, 


My  father  once,  my  mother  all  those  vears^  770 

That  loved  me  so,  now  say  I  dreamea  a  dream 

And  bid  me  wake,  henceforth  no  child  of  theirs, 

Never  in  all  the  time  their  child  at  all. 

Do  you  understand  ?    I  cannot :  yet  so  it  ia. 

Just  so  I  say  of  you  that  proffer  help !  775 

I  cannot  understand  what  prompts  your  soul,* 

I  simply  needs  must  see  that  it  is  so, 

Only  one  strange  and  wonderful  thine  more. 

They  came  here  with  me,  those  two  dear  ones,  kept 

All  the  old  love  up,  till  my  husband,  till  780 

His  people  here  so  tortured  them,  they  fled. 

And  now,  is  it  because  I  grow  in  flesh 

And  spirit  one  with  him  their  torturer, 

That  they,  renouncing  him,  must  cast  off  me? 

If  I  were  graced  by  God  to  have  a  child,  785 

Could  I  one  day  deny  God  graced  me  so? 

Then,  since  my  husband  hates  me,  I  shall  break 

No  law  that  reigns  in  this  fell  house  of  hate. 

By  using —  lettmg  have  effect  so  much 

Of  hate  as  hides  me  from  that  whole  of  hate  790 

Would  take  my  life  which  I  want  and  must  have  — 

Just  as  I  take  from  your  excess  of  love 

Enough  to  save  my  life  with,  all  I  need. 

The  Archbishop  said  to  murder  me  were  sin : 

My  leaving  Guido  were  a  kind  of  death  795 

With  no  sm,  —  more  death,  he  must  answer  for. 

Hear  now  what  death  to  him  and  life  to  you 

I  wish  to  pay  and  owe.    Take  me  to  Rome! 

You  go  to  Rome,  the  servant  makes  me  hear. 

Take  me  as  you  would  take  a  dog,  I  think,  800 

Masterless  left  for  strangers  to  maltreat : 

Take  me  home  like  that  —  leave  me  in  the  house 

Where  the  father  and  the  mother  are ;  and  soon 

They  '11  come  to  know  and  call  me  by  my  name. 

Their  child  once  more,  since  child  I  am,  for  all  805 

They  now  forget  me,  which  is  the  worst  o'  the  dream — 

And  the  way  to  end  dreams  is  to  break  them,  stand. 

Walk,  go :  then  help  me  to  stand,  walk  and  go! 

The  Governor  said  the  strong  should  help  the  weak : 

You  know  how  weak  the  strongest  women  are.  810 

How  could  I  find  my  way  there  by  myself  ? 

I  cannot  even  call  out,  make  them  hear  — 

Just  as  in  dreams :  I  have  tried  and  proved  the  fiact. 

I  have  told  this  story  and  more  to  good  great  men, 

The  Archbishop  and  the  Governor :  they  smiled.  815 

*  Stop  your  mouth,  fair  one! '  —  presently  they  frowned, 

*  Get  you  gone,  disengage  you  from  our  feet! ' 

210  THE  Rll^  AND  THE  BOOK. 

I  went  in  my  despair  to  an  old  priest, 

Only  a  friar,  no  great  man  like  these  two, 

But  good,  the  Augustinian,  people  name  820 

Romano,  —  he  confessed  me  two  months  since : 

He  fears  God,  why  then  needs  he  fear  the  world? 

And  when  he  questioned  how  it  came  about 

That  I  was  found  in  danger  of  a  sin — 

Despair  of  any  help  from  providence, —  825 

^  Since,  though  your  husband  outrage  you,^  said  he, 

*  That  is  a  case  too  common,  the  wives  die 
Or  live,  but  do  not  sin  so  deep  as  this '  — 
Then  I  told — what  I  never  will  tell  you  — 

How,  worse  than  husband^s  hate,  I  had  to  bear  830 

The  love,  —  soliciting  to  shame  called  love,  — 

Of  his  brother,  —  the  young  idle  priest  i'  the  house 

With  only  the  devil  to  meet  there.    *  This  is  grave — 

Yes,  we  must  interfere :  I  counsel,  —  write 

To  those  who  used  to  be  your  parents  once,  835 

Of  dangers  here,  bid  them  convey  you  hence!' 

*  But,'  said  I, '  when  I  neither  read  nor  write  ? ' 
Then  he  took  pity  and  promised  '  I  will  write.' 
If  he  did  so,  —  why,  they  are  dumb  or  dead : 

Either  they  give  no  credit  to  the  tale,  840 

Or  else,  wrapped  wholly  up  in  their  own  joy 

Of  such  escape,  they  care  not  who  cries,  still 

r  the  clutches.     Anyhow,  no  word  arrives. 

All  such  extravagance  and  dreadfulness 

Seems  incident  to  dreaming,  cured  one  way,  —  845 

Wake  me!    The  letter  I  received  this  morn. 

Said  —  if  the  woman  spoke  your  very  sense  — 

*  You  would  die  for  me : '  I  can  believe  it  now : 
For  now  the  dream  gets  to  involve  yourself. 

First  of  all,  you  seemed  wicked  and  not  good,  850 

In  writing  me  those  letters :  you  came  in 

Like  a  thief  upon  me.     I  this  morning  said 

In  my  extremity,  entreat  the  thief ! 

Try  lif  he  have  in  him  no  honest  touch ! 

A  thief  might  save  me  from  a  murderer.  855 

'T  was  a  thief  said  the  last  kind  word  to  Christ : 

Christ  took  the  kindness  aad  forgave  the  theft : 

And  so  did  I  prepare  what  I  now  say. 

But  now,  that  you  stand  and  I  see  your  face, 

Though  you  have  never  uttered  word  yet,  —  well,  I  know,      860 

Here  too  has  been  dream-work,  delusion  too, 

And  that  at  no  time,  you  with  the  eyes  here, 

Ever  intended  to  do  wrong  by  me, 

Nor  wrote  such  letters  therefore.     It  is  false. 

And  you  are  true,  have  been  true,  will  be  true.  865 


To  Rome  then, — when  is  it  you  take  me  there? 
Each  minute  lost  is  mortal.     When? —  I  ask." 

I  answered  ^'  It  shall  be  when  it  can  be. 

I  will  go  hence  and  do  your  pleasure,  find 

The  sure  and  speedy  means  of  travel,  then  870 

Come  back  and  take  you  to  your  friends  in  Rome. 

There  wants  a  carriage,  money  and  the  rest,  — 

A  day's  work  by  to-morrow  at  this  time. 

How  shall  I  see  you  and  assure  escape?" 

She  replied,  "  Pass,  to-morrow  at  this  hour.  875 

If  I  am  at  the  open  window,  well : 

If  I  am  absent,  drop  a  handkerchief 

And  walk  by!    I  shall  see  from  where  I  watch, 

And  know  that  all  is  done.     Return  next  eve, 

And  next,  and  so  till  we  can  meet  and  speak!"  880 

"  To-morrow  at  this  hour  I  pass,"  said  I. 

She  was  withdrawn. 

Here  is  another  point 
I  bid  you  pause  at.    When  I  told  thus  far, 
Some  one  said,  subtly,  "  Here  at  least  was  found 
Your  confidence  in  error,  —  you  perceived  885 

The  spirit  of  the  letters,  in  a  sort. 
Had  been  the  lady's,  if  the  body  should  be 
Supplied  by  Guido :  say,  he  forged  them  all! 
Here  was  the  unforged  fact  —  she  sent  for  you, 
Spontaneously  elected  you  to  help,  890 

—  What  men  call,  loved  you :  Guido  read  her  mind, 
Gave  it  expression  to  assure  the  world 
The  case  was  just  as  he  foresaw :  he  wrote, 
She  spoke." 

Sirs,  that  first  simile  serves  still,  — 
That  falsehood  of  a  scorpion  hatched,  I  say,  895 

Nowhere  i'  the  world  but  in  Madonna's  mouth. 
Go  on!    Suppose,  that  falsehood  foiled,  next  eve 
Pictured  Madonna  raised  her  painted  hand, 
Fixed  the  face  Rafael  bent  above  the  Babe, 
On  my  face  as  I  flung  me  at  her  feet :  900 

Such  miracle  vouchsafed  and  manifest. 
Would  that  prove  the  first  lying  tale  was  true? 
Pompilia  spoke,  and  I  at  once  received. 
Accepted  my  own  fact,  my  miracle 

Self-authorized  and  self-explained,  —  she  chose  905 

To  summon  me  and  signify  her  choice. 
Afterward,  —  oh !  I  gave  a  passing  glance 
To  a  certain  ugly  cloud-shape,  goblin-shred 
Of  hell-smoke  hurrying  past  the  splendid  moon 


Out  now  to  tolerate  no  darkness  more,  910 

And  saw  right  through  the  thing  that  tried  to  pass 

For  truth  and  solid,  not  an  empty  lie : 

"  So,  he  not  only  forged  the  words  for  her 

But  words  for  me,  made  letters  he  called  mine : 

What  I  sent,  he  retained,  gave  these  in  place,  915 

All  by  the  mistress-messenger!    As  I 

Recognized  her,  at  potency  of  truth, 

So  she,  by  the  crystalline  soul,  knew  me. 

Never  mistook  the  signs.     Enough  of  this — 

Let  the  wraith  go  to  nothingness  again,  920 

Here  is  the  orb,  have  only  mought  for  her! " 

"  Thought  ?  "  nay.  Sirs,  what  shall  follow  was  not  thought : 

I  have  thoueht  sometimes,  and  thought  longj  and  hard. 

I  have  stood  before,  gone  round  a  serious  thing, 

Tasked  my  whole  mind  to  touch  and  clasp  it  dose,  925 

As  I  stretch  forth  my  arm  to  touch  this  bar. 

God  and  man,  and  what  duty  I  owe  both,  — 

I  dare  to  say  I  have  confronted  these 

In  thought :  but  no  such  faculty  helped  here. 

I  put  forth  no  thought,  —  powerless,  all  that  night  930 

I  paced  the  city :  it  was  the  first  Spring. 

By  the  invasion  I  lay  passive  to. 

In  rushed  new  things,  the  old  were  rapt  away ; 

Alike  abolished  —  the  imprisonment 

Of  the  outside  air,  the  inside  weight  o'  the  world  935 

That  pulled  me  down.    Death  meant,  to  spurn  the  ground. 

Soar  to  the  sky,  —  die  well  and  you  do  that. 

The  very  immolation  made  the  bliss ; 

Death  was  the  heart  of  life,  and  all  the  harm 

Mjr  folly  had  crouched  to  avoid,  now  proved  a  veil  940 

Hiding  all  gain  my  wisdom  strove  to  grasp : 

As  if  the  intense  centre  of  the  flame 

Should  turn  a  heaven  to  that  devoted  fly 

Which  hitherto,  sophist  alike  and  sage. 

Saint  Thomas  ^  with  his  sober  gray  goose-quill,  945 

And  sinner  Plato  by  Cephisian  ^  reed, 

Would  fain,  pretending  just  the  insect's  good, 

Whisk  off,  drive  back,  consign  to  shade  again. 

Into  another  state,  under  new  rule 

I  knew  myself  was  passing  swift  and  sure ;  950 

Whereof  the  initiatory  pang  approached. 

Felicitous  annoy,  as  bitter-sweet 

As  when  the  virgin-band,  the  victors  chaste, 

^  Saint  Thomas  :  Aquino,    See  oote  on        •  Cephisian  reed :  the  reeds  of  Cephisusi 
1-  4^4*  P0«  of  the  rivers  of  AtbcAS. 


Feel  at  the  end  the  earthly  garments  drop. 

And  rise  with  something  of  a  rosy  shame  955 

Into  immortal  nakedness :  so  I 

Lay,  and  let  come  the  proper  throe  would  thrill 

Into  the  ecstasy  and  outthrob  pain. 

r  the  gray  of  dawn  it  was  I  found  myself 

Facing  the  pillared  front  o^  the  Pieve  —  mine,  960 

My  church :  it  seemed  to  say  for  the  first  time 
'^  But  am  not  I  the  Bride,  the  mystic  love 
O'  the  Lamb,  who  took  thy  plighted  troth,  my  priest, 
To  fold  thy  warm  heart  on  my  heart  of  stone 
And  freeze  thee  nor  unfasten  any  more  ?  965 

This  is  a  fleshly  woman,  —  let  the  free 
Bestow  their  life-blood,  thou  art  pulseless  now! " 
See!    Day  by  day  I  had  risen  and  left  this  church 
At  the  signal  waved  me  by  some  foolish  fan, 
With  half  a  curse  and  half  a  pitying  smile  970 

For  the  monk  I  stumbled  over  in  my  haste, 
Prostrate  and  corpse-like  at  the  altar-foot 
Intent  on  his  corona  ^ :  then  the  church 
Was  ready  with  her  quip,  if  word  conduced, 
To  quicken  my  pace  nor  stop  for  prating  —  "  There!  975 

Be  thankful  you  are  no  such  ninny,  go 
Rather  to  teach  a  black-eyed  novice  cards 
Than  gabble  Latin  and  protrude  that  nose 
Smoothed  to  a  sheep^s  through  no  brains  and  much  £uth! " 
That  sort  of  incentive!    Now  the  church  changed  tone —         980 
Now,  when  I  found  out  first  that  life  and  death 
Are  means  to  an  end,  that  passion  uses  both, 
.    Indisputably  mistress  of  the  man 
Whose  form  of  worship  is  self-sacrifice : 

Now,  from  the  stone  lungs  sighed  the  scrannel  voice  985 

"  Leave  that  live  passion,  come  be  dead  with  me! " 
As  if,  i^  the  fabled  garden,^  I  had  gone 
On  great  adventure,  plucked  in  ignorance 
Hedge-fruit,  and  feasted  to  satiety, 

Laughing  at  such  high  fame  for  hips  and  haws,  990 

And  scorned  the  achievement .:  then  come  all  at  once 
O'  the  prize  ©'  the  place,  the  thing  of  perfect  gold. 
The  applets  self:  and,  scarce  my  eye  on  that. 
Was  'ware  as  well  o'  the  seven-fold  dragon's  watch. 

Sirs,  I  obeyed.    Obedience  was  too  strange,  —  995 

This  new  thing  that  had  been  struck  into  me 

^  His  corona  :  his  rosary.  where  the  folden  Bpi^e  was  guarded  by  a 

*  Tht/abled  garden  :  it  itit  Hetpetides,    drafon. 


By  the  look  o'  the  lady,  —  to  dare  disobey 

The  first  authoritative  word.    'T  was  God's. 

I  had  beea  lifted  to  the  level  of  her, 

Could  take  such  sounds  into  my  sense.     I  said  looo 

"  We  two  are  cognisant  o'  the  Master  now ; 

She  it  is  bids  me  bow  the  head :  how  true, 

I  am  a  priest!  I  see  the  function  here ; 

I  thought  the  other  way  self-sacrifice : 

This  is  the  true,  seals  up  the  perfect  sum.  1005 

I  pay  it,  sit  down,  silently  obey."  a 

So,  I  went  home.    Dawn  broke,  noon  broadened,  I —  \  T^ 

I  sat  stone-still,  let  time  run  over  me. 

The  sun  slanted  into  my  room,  had  reached 

The  west.     I  opened  book,  —  Aquinas  blazed  loio 

With  one  black  name  only  on  the  white  page. 

I  looked  up,  saw  the  sunset :  vespers  rang : 

"  She  counts  the  minutes  till  I  keep  my  word 

And  come  say  all  is  ready.    I  am  a  priest. 

Duty  to  God  is  duty  to  her:  I  think  1015 

God,  who  created  her,  will  save  her  too 

Some  new  way,  by  one  miracle  the  more. 

Without  me.     Then,  prayer  may  avail  perhaps. ** 

I  went  to  my  own  place  i'  the  Pieve,  read 

The  office :  I  was  back  at  home  again  1020 

Sitting  i'  the  dark.    "  Could  she  but  know  —  but  know 

That,  were  there  good  in  this  distinct  from  God's, 

Really  good  as  it  reached  her,  though  procured 

By  a  sin  of  mine,  —  I  should  sin :  God  forgives. 

She  knows  it  is  no  fear  withholds  me :  fear?  1025 

Of  what  ?    Suspense  here  is  the  terrible  thing. 

If  she  should,  as  she  counts  the  minutes,  come 

On  the  fantastic  notion  that  I  fear 

The  world  now,  fear  the  Archbishop,  fear  perhaps 

Count  Guido,  he  who,  having  foi|;ea  the  lies,  1030 

May  wait  the  work,  attend  the  effect,  —  I  fear 

The  sword  of  Guido!    Let  God  see  to  that  — 

Hating  lies,  let  not  her  believe  a  lie! " 

Again  the  morning  found  me.     "I  will  work,        '  ^ 

Tie  down  my  foolish  thoughts.     Thank  God  so  far!  1035 

I  have  saved  her  from  a  scandal,  stopped  the  tongues 

Had  broken  else  into  a  cackle  and  hiss 

Around  the  noble  name.     Duty  is  still 

Wisdom :  I  have  been  wise."    So  the  day  wore. 

At  evening — "  But,  achieving  victory,  1040 

I  must  not  blink  the  priest's  peculiar  part. 


Nor  shrink  to  counsel,  comfort :  priest  and  fHend  — 

How  do  we  discontinue  to  be  friends  ? 

I  will  go  minister,  advise  her  seek 

Help  at  the  source,  —  above  all,  not  despair :  1045 

There  may  be  other  happier  help  at  hand. 

I  hope  it,  —  wherefore  then  neglect  to  say?  " 

There  she  stood — leaned  there,  for  the  second  time,  (  (.^  C-  ^ 

Over  the  terrace,  looked  at  me,  then  spoke : 

"  Why  is  it  you  have  suffered  me  to  stay  1050 

Breaking  my  heart  two  days  more  than  was  need? 

Why  delay  help,  your  own  heart  yearns  to  give  ? 

You  are  again  here,  in  the  self-same  mind, 

I  see  here,  steadfast  in  the  face  of  you, — 

You  grudge  to  do  no  one  thing  that  I  ask.  1055 

Why  then  is  nothing  done?    You  know  my  need. 

Still,  through  God's  pity  on  me,  there  is  time 

And  one  day  more :  shall  I  be  saved  or  no?  " 

I  answered  —  "  Lady,  waste  no  thought,  no  word 

Even  to  forgive  me!    Care  for  what  I  care —  1060 

Only !    Now  follow  me  as  I  were  fate ! 

Leave  this  house  in  the  dark  to-morrow  night. 

Just  before  daybreak :  —  there  's  new  moon  this  eve  — 

It  sets,  and  then  begins  the  solid  black. 

Descend,  proceed  to  the  Torrione,  step  1065 

Over  the  low  dilapidated  wall. 

Take  San  Clemente,  there  's  no  other  gate 

Unguarded  at  the  hour :  some  paces  thence 

An  inn  stands ;  cross  to  it :  I  shall  be  there. ^' 

She  answered,  "  If  I  can  but  find  the  way.  1070 

But  I  shall  find  it.    Go  now!" 

I  did  go,    ' 
Took  rapidly  the  route  myself  prescribed, 
Stopped  at  Torrione,  climbed  the  ruined  place, 
Proved  that  the  gate  was  practicable,  reached 
The  inn,  no  eye,  despite  the  dark,  could  miss,  1075 

Knocked  there  and  entered,  made  the  host  secure  : 
^^  With  Caponsacchi  it  is  ask  and  have ; 
I  know  my  betters.     Are  you  bound  for  Rome? 
I  get  swift  horse  and  trusty  man,''  said  he. 

Then  I  retraced  my  steps,  was  found  once  more  1080 

In  my  own  house  for  the  last  time :  there  lay 
The  broad  paJe  opened  Summa.     *^  Shut  his  book, 
There 's  other  showing!    'T  was  a  Thomas  too 
Obtainedi — more  favored  than  his  namesake  here, — 

2i6         THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK. 

A  gift,  tied  foith  ^t,  foiled  the  tug  of  doubt^  -^  1085 

Our  Lady's  girdle ;  ^  down  he  saw  it  drop 
As  she  ascended  into  heaven,  they  say : 
He  kept  that  safe  and  bade  all  doubt  adieu. 
I  too  have  seen  a  lady  and  hold  a  grace.^' 

I  know  not  how  the  night  passed :  morning  broke ;  ^^^^090 

Presently  came  my  servant.    "  Sir,  this  eve — 

Do  you  forget  ?  "    I  started.    "  How  forget  ? 

What  is  it  you  know?  "    "  With  due  submission,  Sir 

This  bein^  last  Monday  in  the  month  but  one 

And  a  vigil,  since  to-morrow  is  Saint  George,  1095 

And  feast  day,  and  moreover  day  for  copes, 

And  Canon  Conti  now  away  a  month. 

And  Canon  Crispi  sour  because,  forsooth. 

You  let  him  sulk  in  stall  and  bear  the  brunt 

Of  the  octave  .  .  .  Well,  Sir,  't  is  important!" 

"True!   iioo 
Hearken,  I  have  to  start  for  Rome  this  night. 
No  word,  lest  Crispi  overboil  and  burst  \ 
Provide  me  with  a  laic  dress!    Throw  dust 
r  the  Canon's  eye,  stop  his  tongue's  scandal  so ! 
See  there 's  a  sword  in  case  of  accident."  1 105 

I  knew  the  knave,  the  knave  knew  me.  1 

And  thus  \  \  '^^  '"^ 
Through  each  familiar  hindrance  of  the  day 
Did  I  make  steadily  for  its  hour  and  end,  — 
Felt  time's  old  barrier-growth  of  right  and  fit 
Give  way  through  all  its  twines,  and  let  me  %o.  mo 

Use  and  wont  recognized  the  excepted  man. 
Let  speed  the  special  service,  —  and  I  sped 
Till,  at  the  dead  between  midnight  and  mom, 
There  was  I  at  the  goal,  before  the  gate. 
With  a  tune  in  the  ears,  low  leading  up  to  loud,  1 1 15 

A  light  in  the  eyes,  faint  that  would  soon  be  flare, 
Ever  some  spiritual  witness  new  and  new 
In  faster  frequence,  crowding  solitude 
To  watch  the  way  o'  the  warfare,  —  till,  at  last, 
When  the  ecstatic  minute  must  bring  birth,  11 20 

Began  a  whiteness  in  the  distance,  waxed 
Whiter  and  whiter,  near  grew  and  more  near. 
Till  it  was  she :  there  did  Pompilia  come : 
The  white  I  saw  shine  through  her  was  her  soul's. 
Certainly,  for  the  body  was  one  black,  1125 

Black  from  head  down  to  foot.     She  did  not  speak, 

^  Our  Lady's  girdle  :    according  to  the    loosened  her  girdle,  which  fell  into  the  hands 
tradition,  the  Virgin,  on  her  ascent  to  heayen,    of  the  doubting  apostle,  St.  Thonnas. 


Glided  into  the  carriage,  —  so  a  cloud 

Gathers  the  moon  up.    "  By  San  Spirito, 

To  Rome,  as  if  the  road  burned  underneath! 

Reach  Rome,  then  hold  my  head  in  pledge,  I  pay  1 130 

The  run  and  the  risk  to  heart's  content! "    Just  that 

I  said,  —  then,  in  another  tick  of  time. 

Sprang,  was  beside  her,  she  and  I  alone. 

So  it  began,  our  flight  thro'  dusk  to  clear,  [V  S 

Through  day  and  night  and  day  again  to  night  1135 

Once  more,  and  to  last  dreadful  dawn  of  all. 

Sirs,  how  should  I  lie  quiet  in  my  grave 

Unless  you  suffer  me  wring,  drop  by  drop, 

My  brain  dry,  make  a  riddance  of  the  drench 

Of  minutes  with  a  memory  in  each,  1 140 

Recorded  motion,  breath  or  look  of  hers, 

Which  poured  forth  would  present  you  one  pure  glass, 

Mirror  you  plain,  —  as  God's  sea,^  glassed  in  gold. 

His  saints,  —  the  perfect  soul  Pompilia?    Men, 

You  must  know  that  a  man  sets  drunk  with  truth  1x45 

Stagnant  inside  him!    Oh,  they've  killed  her,  Sirs! 

Can  I  be  calm  ? 

Calmly!    Each  incident 
Proves,  I  maintain,  that  action  of  the  flight 
For  the  true  thing  it  was.    The  first  faint  scratch 
O'  the  stone  will  test  its  nature,  teach  its  worth  11 50 

To  idiots  who  name  Parian  ^ — coprolite.* 
After  all,  I  shall  give  no  glare  —  at  best 
Only  display  you  certain  scattered  lights 
Lamping  the  rush  and  roll  of  the  abyss : 
Nothing  but  here  and  there  a  fire-point  pricks  11 55 

Wavelet  from  wavelet :  well! 

For  the  first  hour 
We  both  were  silent  in  the  night,  I  know : 
Sometimes  I  did  not  see  nor  understand. 
Blackness  engulphed  me,  —  partial  stupor,  say  — 
Then  I  would  break  way,  breathe  through  the  surprise,     11 60 
And  be  aware  again,  and  see  who  sat 
In  the  dark  vest  with  the  white  face  and  hands. 
I  said  to  myself —  "  I  have  caught  it,  I  conceive 
The  mind  o'  the  mystery :  't  is  the  way  they  wake 
And  wait,  two  martyrs  somewhere  in  a  tomb  11 65 

Each  by  each  as  their  blessing  was  to  die ; 
Some  signal  they  are  promisea  and  expect,  — 
When  to  arise  before  the  trumpet  scares : 

»  Go^t  tea  :  Rerelation,  iv.  6.  •  Coprolite  :   p«tri6^   dung  of  ctrniyo- 

*  Parian :  pure  marble  from  Paros.  rous  reptiiet. 


So,  through  the  whole  course  of  the  world  they  wait 

The  last  day,  but  so  fearless  and  so  safe!  1170 

No  otherwise,  in  safety  and  not  fear, 

I  lie,  because  she  lies  too  by  my  side." 

You  know  this  is  not  love.  Sirs,  —  it  is  faith. 

The  feeling  that  there 's  God,  he  reigns  and  rules 

Out  of  this  low  world :  that  is  all ;  no  harm !  1 175 

At  times  she  drew  a  soft  sigh  —  music  seemed 

Always  to  hover  just  above  her  lips, 

Not  settle,  —  break  a  silence  music  too. 

In  the  determined  morning,  I  first  found   '  \  "'.  I 

Her  head  erect,  her  face  turned  fiill  to  me,  1180 

Her  soul  intent  on  mine  through  two  wide  eyes. 

I  answered  them.    "  You  are  saved  hitherto. 

We  have  passed  Perugia, — gone  round  by  the  wood, 

Not  through,  I  seem  to  think,  —  and  opposite 

I  know  Assisi ;  this  is  holy  ground."  *  1185 

Then  she  resumed.    "  How  long  since  we  both  left 

Arezzo  ?  "    "  Years  —  and  certain  hours  beside." 

It  was  at  ...  ah,  but  I  forget  the  names !    ^ 

'T  is  a  mere  post-house  and  a  hovel  or  two ; 

I  left  the  carriage  and  got  bread  and  wine  f  1^ 

And  brought  it  Tier.     "  Does  it  detain  to  eat?  " 

"They  stay  perforce,  change  horses,  —  therefore  eat! 

We  lose  no  minute :  we  arrive,  be  sure! " 

This  was  —  I  know  not  where  —  there 's  a  great  hill 

Close  over,  and  the  stream  has  lost  its  bridge,  H95 

One  fords  it.     She  began  —  "I  have  heard  say 

Of  some  sick  body  that  my  mother  knew, 

^  was  no  good  sign  when  in  a  limb  diseased 

All  the  pain  suddenly  departs,  —  as  if 

The  guardian  angel  discontinued  pain  1200 

Because  the  hope  of  cure  was  gone  at  last : 

The  limb  will  not  again  exert  itself, 

It  needs  be  pained  no  longer :  so  with  me, 

—  My  soul  whence  all  the  pain  is  past  at  once : 

All  pain  must  be  to  work  some  good  in  the  end.  r205 

True,  this  I  feel  now,  this  may  1^  that  good, 

Pain  was  because  of,  —  otherwise,  I  fear!" 

She  said,  —  a  long  while  later  in  the  day. 

When  I  had  let  the  silence  be,  —  abrupt  — 

"  Have  you  a  mother?  "    "  She  died,  I  was  born."  12 10 

^  Assist  .  .  .  holy  ground  :   because  St.    order  of  Franciscan  monks  and  the  mODMteiy 
Francis  was  born  there  in  zxSa,  founder  of  the    of  St.  Francis. 


"  A  sister  then  ?  "    "  No  sister."    "  Who  was  it  — 

What  woman  were  you  used  to  serve  this  way, 

Be  kind  to,  till  I  called  you  and  you  came  ?  " 

I  did  not  like  that  word.     Soon  afterward  — 

^  Tell  me,  are  men  unhappy,  in  some  kind  12 15 

Of  mere  unhappiness  at  being  men. 

As  women  suffer,  being  womanish  ? 

Have  you,  now,  some  unhappiness,  I  mean. 

Bom  of  what  may  be  man^s  strength  overmuch. 

To  match  the  undue  susceptibility,  1220 

The  sense  at  every  pore  when  hate  is  close? 

It  hurts  us  if  a  baby  hides  its  face 

Or  child  strikes  at  us  punily,  calls  names 

Or  makes  a  mouth,  —  much  more  if  stranger  men 

Laugh  or  frown, — just  as  that  were  much  to  bear!  1225 

Yet  rocks  split,  —  and  the  blow-ball  does  no  more, 

Quivers  to  feathery  nothing  at  a  touch ; 

And  strength  may  have  its  drawback  weakness  scapes." 

Once  she  asked  "  What  is  it  that  made  you  smile. 

At  the  great  gate  with  the  eagles  and  the  snakes,  1230 

Where  the  company  entered,  'tis  a  long  time  since?" 

" — Forgive  —  I  think  you  would  not  understand: 

Ah,  but  you  ask  me,  —  therefore,  it  was  this. 

That  was  a  certain  bishop's  villa-gate, 

I  knew  it  by  the  eagles,  —  and  at  once  1235 

Remembered  this  same  bishop  was  just  he 

People  of  old  were  wont  to  bid  me  please 

If  I  would  catch  preferment :  so,  I  smiled 

Because  an  impulse  came  to  me,  a  whim  — 

What  if  I  prayed  the  prelate  leave  to  speak,  1240 

Began  upon  him  in  his  presence-hall 

—  *  What,  still  at  work  so  gray  and  obsolete  ? 

Still  rocheted  and  mitred  more  or  less  ? 

Don't  you  feel  all  that  out  of  fashion  now  ? 

I  find  out  when  the  day  of  things  is  done! * "  1245 

At  eve  we  heard  the  angelus:'^  she  turned —  ' 

"  I  told  you  I  can  neither  read  nor  write. 

My  life  stopped  with  the  play-time ;  I  will  learn. 

If  I  begin  to  live  again :  but  you  — 

Who  are  a  priest  —  wherefore  do  you  not  read  1250 

The  service  at  this  hour?    Read  Gabriel's  song. 

The  lesson,  and  then  read  the  little  prayer 

To  Raphael,  proper  for  us  travellers ! " 

I  did  not  like  that,  neither,  but  I  read. 

^  The  angelus  :  the  brief  service  said  at    consisting  of  the  Ave^  or  "  Hail,  Mary,"  etc., 
the  toll  of  the  bell,  at  mom,  noon,  and  night,    with  versicle  response  and  a  collect 

220  THE  RmG  AI^D  THE  BOOK. 

When  we  stopped  at  Foligno  it  was  dark.  1255 

The  people  of  the  post  came  out  with  lights : 

The  driver  said,  "  This  time  to-morrow,  may 

Saints  only  help,  relays  continue  good, 

Nor  robbers  hinder,  we  arrive  at  Rome." 

I  urged,  <<  Why  tax  your  strength  a  second  night?  1260 

Trust  me,  alight  here  and  take  brief  repose! 

We  are  out  o?  harm^s  reach,  past  pursuit :  go  sleep 

If  but  an  hour!  I  keep  watch,  guard  the  while 

Here  in  the  doorway."    But  her  whole  face  changed^ 

The  misery  grew  again  about  her  mouth,  1265 

The  eyes  burned  up  from  faintness,  like  the  fawn's 

Tired  to  death  in  the  thicket,  when  she  feels 

The  probing  spear  o'  the  huntsman.    "  Oh,  no  stay  I " 

She  cried,  in  the  fawn's  cry,  "  On  to  Rome,  on,  on — 

Unless  't  is  you  who  fear,  —  which  cannot  be! "  1270 

We  did  go  on  all  night ;  but  at  its  close     I  *^    [ 

She  was  troubled,  restless,  moaned  low,  talked  at  whiles 

To  herself,  her  brow  on  quiver  with  the  dream : 

Once,  wide  awake,  she  menaced,  at  arms'  length 

Waved  away  something  —  "  Never  again  with  you !  1275 

My  soul  is  mine,  my  body  is  my  soul's : 

You  and  I  are  divided  ever  more 

In  soul  and  body :  get  you  gone ! "    Then  I  — 

"Why,  in  my  whole  life  I  have  never  prayed! 

Oh,  if  the  God,  that  only  can,  would  help!  1280 

Am  I  his  priest  with  power  to  cast  out  fiends  ? 

Let  God  arise  and  all  his  enemies 

Be  scattered ! "    By  morn  there  was  peace,  no  sigh 

Out  of  the  deep  sleep. 

When  she  woke  at  last,        < 
I  answered  the  first  look  —  "  Scarce  twelve  hours  more,     1285 
Then,  Rome !    There  probably  was  no  pursuit, 
There  cannot  now  be  peril :  bear  up  brave! 
Just  some  twelve  hours  to  press  through  to  the  prize : 
Then,  no  more  of  the  terrible  journey ! "    "  Then, 
No  more  o'  the  journey :  if  it  might  out  last!  1290 

Always,  my  life-long,  thus  to  journey  still ! 
It  is  the  interruption  that  I  dread,  — 
With  no  dread,  ever  to  be  here  and  thus! 
Never  to  see  a  face  nor  hear  a  voice! 

Yours  is  no  voice ;  you  speak  when  you  are  dumb ;  1295 

Nor  face,  I  see  it  in  the  dark.     I  want 
No  face  nor  voice  that  change  and  grow  unkind." 
That  I  liked,  that  was  the  best  thing  she  said. 


In  the  broad  day,  I  dared  entreat,  "Descend! "      ^  '     ' 

I  told  a  woman,  at  the  garden-sate  1300 

By  the  post-house,  white  and  pleasant  in  the  sun, 

"  It  is  my  sister,  —  talk  with* her  apart! 

She  is  married  and  unhappy,  you  perceive ; 

I  take  her  home  because  her  head  is  hurt ; 

Comfort  her  as  you  women  understand ! "  1305 

So,  there  I  left  them  by  the  garden-wall, 

Paced  the  road,  then  bade  put  the  horses  to, 

Came  back,  and  there  she  sat :  close  to  her  knee, 

A  black-eyed  child  still  held  the  bowl  of  milk, 

Wondered  to  see  how  little  she  could  drink,  13 10 

And  in  her  arms  the  woman^s  infant  lay. 

She  smiled  at  me  "  How  much  eood  this  has  done! 

This  is  a  whole  night^s  rest  and  how  much  more! 

I  can  proceed  now,  though  I  wish  to  stay. 

How  do  you  call  that  tree  with  the  thick  top  13 15 

That  holds  in  all  its  leafy  green  and  eold 

The  sun  now  like  an  immense  egg  of  fire?  ^* 

(It  was  a  million-leaved  mimosa.)    "  Take 

The  babe  away  from  me  and  let  me  go!  *^ 

And  in  the  carri^e  "  Still  a  day,  my  friend!  1320 

And  perhaps  half  a  night,  the  woman  fears. 

I  pray  it  finish  since  it  cannot  last 

There  may  be  more  misfortune  at  the  close, 

And  where  will  you  be?    God  suffice  me  then! " 

And  presently  —  for  there  was  a  roadside-shrine —  1325 

"  When  I  was  taken  first  to  my  own  church 

Lorenzo  in  Lucina,  being  a  girl. 

And  bid  confess  my  £^ults,  I  interposed 

' But  teach  me  what  fault  to  confess  and  know! ' 

So,  the  priest  said  —  *  You  should  bethink  yourself:  1330 

Each  human  bein^  needs  must  have  done  wrong!  * 

Now,  be  you  candid  and  no  priest  but  friend  — 

Were  I  surprised  and  killed  here  on  the  spot, 

A  runaway  from  husband  and  his  home. 

Do  you  account  it  were  in  sin  I  died?  1335 

My  husband  used  to  seem  to  harm  me,  not  .  .  . 

Not  on  pretence  he  punished  sin  of  mine. 

Nor  for  sin's  sake  and  lust  of  cruelty. 

But  as  I  heard  him  bid  a  farming-roan 

At  the  villa  take  a  lamb  once  to  the  wood  1340 

And  there  ill-treat  it,  meaning  that  the  wolf 

Should  hear  its  cries,  and  so  come,  quick  be  caught, 

Enticed  to  the  trap :  he  practised  thus  with  me 

That  so,  whatever  were  his  gain  thereby, 

Others  than  I  might  become  prey  and  spoil.  1345 

Had  it  been  only  between  our  two  selves,  — 

222  THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOft. 

His  pleasure  and  my  pain,  —  why,  pleasure  him 

By  dying,  nor  such  need  to  make  a  coil! 

But  this  was  worth  an  effort,  that  my  pain 

Should  not  become  a  snare,  prove  pain  threefold  1350 

To  other  people — strangers  —  or  unborn  — 

How  should  I  know?    I  sought  release  from  that* 

I  think,  or  else  from,  —  dare  I  say,  some  cause 

Such  as  is  put  into  a  tree,  which  turns 

Away  from  the  north  wind  with  what  nest  it  holds,  —       1355 

The  woman  said  that  trees  so  turn :  now,  friend, 

Tell  me,  because  I  cannot  trust  myself ! 

You  are  a  man :  what  have  I  done  amiss  ?  '^ 

You  must  conceive  my  answer,  —  I  forget  — 

Taken  up  wholly  with  the  thought,  perhaps,  1360 

This  time  she  might  have  said,  —  might,  did  not  say  — 

"  You  are  a  priest."    She  said,  "  my  friend." 

Day  wore. 
We  passed  the  places,  somehow  the  calm  went, 
Agam  the  restless  eyes  began  to  rove 

In  new  fear  of  the  foe  mine  could  not  see.  1365 

She  wandered  in  her  mind,  —  addressed  me  once 
"  Gaetano ! "  —  that  is  not  my  name :  whose  name  ?  ^ 
I  grew  alarmed,  my  head  seemed  turning  too. 
I  quickened  pace  with  promise  now,  now  threat : 
Bade  drive  and  drive,  nor  any  stopping  more.  1370 

"Too  deep  i'  the  thick  of  the  struggle,  struggle  through! 
Then  drench  her  in  repose  though  death^s  self  pour 
The  plenitude  of  quiet, — help  us,  God, 
Whom  the  winds  carry!"  n  0  ^ 

Suddenly  I  saw      I    >       1 
The  old  tower,  and  the  little  white-walled  clump  1375 

Of  buildings  and  the  cypress-tree  or  two,  — 
"  Already  Castelnuovo  —  Rome! "  I  cried, 
"As  ^ood  as  Rome,  —  Rome  is  the  next  stage,  think! 
This  IS  where  travellers'  hearts  are  wont  to  beat. 
Say  you  are  saved,  sweet  lady! "    Up  she  woke.  1380 

The  sky  was  fierce  with  color  from  the  sun 
Setting.     She  screamed  out  "  No,  I  must  not  die! 
Take  me  no  farther,  I  should  die :  stay  here! 
I  have  more  life  to  save  than  mine! " 

She  swooned. 
We  seemed  safe :  what  was  it  foreboded  so?  1385 

Out  of  the  coach  into  the  inn  I  bore 
The  motionless  and  breathless  pure  and  pale 
Pompilia, —  bore  her  through  a  pitying  group 
And  laid  her  on  a  couch,  still  calm  and  cured 

>  Gaetano  .  .  .  whose  name  :  see  Book  VII.  xox. 


By  deep  sleep  of  all  woes  at  once.    The  host  1390 

was  urgent  "  Let  her  stay  an  hour  or  two ! 
Leave  her  to  us,  all  will  be  right  by  morn! " 
Oh,  my  foreboding!    But  I  could  not  choose. 

I  paced  the  passage,  kept  watch  all  night  long.  /  "^  ' 
I  listened,  —  not  one  movement,  not  one  si^h.  1395 

"  Fear  not :  she  sleeps  so  sound! "  they  saia :  but  I 
Feared,  all  the  same,  kept  fearing  more  and  more. 
Found  myself  throb  with  fear  from  head  to  foot, 
Filled  wim  a  sense  of  such  impending  woe. 

That,  at  first  pause  of  night,  pretence  of  gray,  1400 

I  made  my  mind  up  it  was  mom.  —  <<  Reach  Rome, 
Lest  hell  reach  her!    A  dozen  miles  to  make. 
Another  long  breath,  and  we  emerge!  ^*     I  stood 
r  the  court-yard,  roused  the  sleepy  grooms.    "  Have  out 
Carriage  and  horse,  give  haste,  take  eold!^^  said  L  1405 

While  they  made  ready  in  the  doubtml  morn,  — 
T  was  the  last  minute,  —  needs  must  I  ascend  «v     / 

And  break  her  sleep ;  I  turned  to  go.  ?^^ 

And  there  ^  "    /  \ 
Faced  me  Count  Guido,  there  posed  the  mean  man       ^ 
As  master,  —  took  the  field,  encamped  his  rights,  1410 

Challenged  the  world :  there  leered  new  triumph,  there 
Scowled  the  old  malice  in  the  visage  bad 
And  black  o^  the  scamp.     Soon  triumph  suppled  the  tongue 
A  little,  malice  glued  to  his  dry  throat, 

And  he  part  howled,  part  hissed  ...  oh,  how  he  kept  141  j 

Well  out  o'  the  way,  at  arm's  length  and  to  spare!  — 
"  My  salutation  to  your  priestship!    What  ? 
Matutinal,  busy  with  book  so  soon 
Of  an  April  day  that 's  damp  as  tears  that  now 
Deluge  Arezzo  at  its  darling's  flight? —  1420 

rr  is  unfair,  wrongs  feminity  at  large. 
To  let  a  single  dame  monopolize 
A  heart  the  whole  sex  claims,  should  share  alike : 
Therefore  I  overtake  you.  Canon!    Come! 

The  lady,  —  could  you  leave  her  side  so  soon  ?  1425 

You  have  not  yet  experienced  at  her  hands 
My  treatment,  you  lay  down  undrugged,  I  see ! 
Hence  this  alertness  —  hence  no  death-in-life 
Like  what  held  arms  £ast  when  she  stole  from  mine. 
To  be  sure,  you  took  the  solace  and  repose  1430 

That  first  night  at  Foligno!  —  news  abound 
O'  the  road  by  this  time,  —  men  regaled  me  much, 
As  past  them  I  came  halting  after  you, 


Vulcan  pursuing  Mars,^  as  poets  sing, — 

Still  at  the  last  nere  pant  I,  but  arrive,  1435 

Vulcan  —  and  not  without  my  Cyclops  too, 

The  Commissary  and  the  unpoisoned  arm 

O'  the  Civil  Force,  should  Mars  turn  mutineer. 

Enough  of  fooling :  capture  the  culprits,  friend! 

Here  is  the  lover  m  the  smart  disguise  1440 

With  the  sword, —  he  is  a  priest,  so  mine  lies  stiU. 

There  upstairs  hides  my  wife  the  runaway. 

His  leman :  the  two  plotted,  poisoned  first, 

Plundered  me  after,  and  eloped  thus  far 

Where  now  you  find  them.    Do  your  duty  quick!  1445 

Arrest  and  hold  him!    That  ^s  done :  now  catch  her!  ^ 

During  this  speech  of  that  man,  —  well,  I  stood 

Away,  as  he  managed,  —  still,  I  stood  as  near 

The  throat  of  him,  with  these  two  hands,  my  own,  — 

As  now  I  stand  near  vours.  Sir,  —  one  quick  spring,  1450 

One  great  good  satisfying  gripe,  and  lo ! 

There  had  ne  lain  abolished  with  his  lie. 

Creation  purged  o^  the  miscreate,  man  redeemed, 

A  spittle  wiped  off  from  the  face  of  God! 

I,  in  some  measure,  seek  a  poor  excuse  1455 

For  what  I  left  undone,  in  just  this  fact 

That  my  first  feeling  at  the  speech  I  quote 

Was  —  not  of  what  a  blasphemy  was  dared, 

Not  what  a  bag  of  venomed  purulence 

Was  split  and  noisome,  —  but  how  splendidly  1460 

Mirthful,  how  ludicrous  a  lie  was  launched ! 

Would  Moli^re^s  ^  self  wish  more  than  hear  such  man 

Call,  claim  such  woman  for  his  own,  his  wife 

Even  though,  in  due  amazement  at  the  boast, 

He  had  stammered,  she  moreover  was  divine?  1465 

She  to  be  his,  —  were  hardly  less  absurd 

Than  that  he  took  her  name  into  his  mouth. 

Licked,  and  then  let  it  go  again,  the  beast, 

Signed  with  his  slaver.    Oh,  she  poisoned  him. 

Plundered  him,  and  the  rest!    Well,  what  I  wished  1470 

Was,  that  he  would  but  go  on,  say  once  more 

So  to  the  world,  and  get  his  meed  of  men. 

The  fist's  reply  to  the  filth.    And  while  I  mused. 

The  minute,  oh  the  misery,  was  gone! 

On  either  idle  hand  of  me  there  stood  1475 

Really  an  officer,  nor  laughed  i'  the  least : 

*  Vulcan  pursuing  Mars :  the  story  of  Juan,"  wherein  Moliftre  (1622-1673)  makes 
Vulcan's  discovering  the  love  of  Venus  and  the  libertine  husband  claim  Doima  Elvire, 
Mars,  already  referred  to  by  Guido.  the  nun,  as  his  wife. 

*  Moliire's  :  an  allusion  to  the  play  "  Don 


Nay,  rendered  justice  to  his  reason,  laid 
L^c  to  heart,  as  ^t  were  submitted  them 
^  Twice  two  makes  four." 

''And  now,  catch  her! "  he  cried. 
That  sobered  me.    ''Let  myself  lead  the  way—  1480 

Ere  you  arrest  me,  who  am  somebody, 
Being,  as  vou  hear,  a  priest  and  privileged,  — 
To  the  lady's  chamber!    I  presume  you — men 
Expert,  instructed  how  to  find  out  truth. 

Familiar  with  the  guise  of  guilt.    Detect  1485 

Guilt  on  her  face  when  it  meets  mine,  then  judge 
Between  us  and  the  mad  dog  howling  there! " 
Up  we  all  went  together,  in  they  broke 
O'  the  chamber  late  ray  chapel.     There  she  lay, 
Composed  as  when  I  laid  her,  that  last  eve,  1490 

O'  the  couch,  still  breathless,  motionless,  sleep's  self. 
Wax-white,  seraphic,  saturate  with  the  sun 
O'  the  morning  that  now  flooded  from  the  front 
And  filled  the  window  with  a  light  like  blood. 
*'  Behold  the  poisoner,  the  adulteress,  1495 

—  And  feigning  sleep  too!    Seize,  bind! "  Guido  hissed. 


She  started  up,  stood  erect,  face  to  face  '  '"^ 

With  the  husband :  back  he  fell,  was  buttressed  there 

By  the  window  all  a-flame  with  morning-red, 

He  the  black  figure,  the  opprobrious  bmr  1500 

Against  all  peace  and  joy  and  light  and  life. 

"  Away  from  between  me  and  hell! "  she  cried : 

"  Hell  for  me,  no  embracing  any  more! 

I  am  God's,  I  love  God,  God  —  whose  knees  I  clasp, 

Whose  utterly  most  just  award  I  take,  1505 

But  bear  no  more  love-making  devils :  hence! " 

I  may  have  made  an  effort  to  reach  her  side 

From  where  I  stood  i'  the  door-way,  —  anyhow 

I  found  the  arms,  I  wanted,  pinioned  fast. 

Was  powerless  in  the  clutch  to  left  and  right  15 10 

O'  the  rabble  pouring  in,  rascality 

Enlisted,  rampant  on  the  side  of'^hearth 

Home  and  the  husband, — pay  in  prospect  too! 

They  heaped  themselves  upon  me.    "  Ha!  —  and  him 

Also  you  outrage?     Him,  too,  my  sole  friend,  15 15 

Guardian  and  saviour?    That  I  baulk  you  o^ 

Since  —  see  how  God  can  help  at  last  and  worst! " 

She  sprang  at  the  sword  that  hung  beside  him,  seized. 

Drew,  brandished  it,  the  sunrise  burned  for  joy 

O'  the  blade,  "  Die,"  cried  she,  "  devil,  in  God's  name! "  1520 

Ah,  but  they  all  closed  round  her,  twelve  to  one 

—  The  unmanly  men,  no  woman-mother  made, 

226  THE  RmG  AJ^D  THE  BOOK, 

Spawned  somehow !    Dead-white  and  disarmed  she  lay. 

No  matter  for  the  sword,  her  word  sufficed 

To  spike  the  coward  through  and  through :  he  shook,  1525 

Could  only  spit  between  the  teeth  —  "  You  see  ? 

You  hear?    Bear  witness,  then!    Write  down  .  .  .  but  no  — 

Carry  these  criminals  to  the  prison-house. 

For  first  thing!     I  begin  my  search  meanwhile 

After  the  stolen  effects,  gold,  jewels,  plate,  1530 

Money  and  clothes,  they  robbed  me  of  and  fled, 

With  no  few  amorous  pieces,  verse  and  prose, 

I  have  much  reason  to  expect  to  find.^* 

>      ■*-; 

When  I  saw  that — no  more  than  the  first  mad  speech,   ^  "^ 

Made  out  the  speaker  mad  and  a  laughing-stock,  1535 

So  neither  did  this  next  device  explode 

One  listener's  indignation,  —  that  a  scribe 

Did  sit  down,  set  himself  to  write  indeed. 

While  sundry  knaves  began  to  peer  and  pry 

In  corner  and  hole, —  that  Guido,  wiping  brow  1540 

And  getting  him  a  countenance,  was  fast 

Losing  his  fear,  beginning  to  strut  free 

O'  the  stage  of  his  exploit,  snuff  here,  sniff  there, — 

Then  I  took  truth  in,  guessed  sufficiently 

The  service  for  the  moment.    "What  I  say,  1545 

Slight  at  your  peril !    We  are  aliens  here. 

My  adversary  and  I,  called  noble  both ; 

I  am  the  nobler,  and  a  name  men  know. 

I  could  refer  our  cause  to  our  own  Court 

In  our  own  country,  but  prefer  appeal  I55<> 

To  the  nearer  jurisdiction.     Being  a  priest, 

Though  in  a  secular  garb,  —  for  reasons  good 

I  shall  adduce  in  due  time  to  my  peers,  — 

I  demand  that  the  Church  I  serve,  decide 

Between  us,  right  the  slandered  lady  there.  1555 

A  Tuscan  noble,  I  might  claim  the  Duke : 

A  priest,  I  rather  choose  the  Church,  —  bid  Rome 

Cover  the  wronged  with  her  inviolate  shield." 

There  was  no  refiising  this :  they  bore  me  off, 

They  bore  her  off,  to  separate  cells  o'  the  same  1560 

Ignoble  prison,  and,  separate,  thence  to  Rome. 

Pompilia's  face,  then  and  thus,  looked  on  me 

The  last  time  in  this  life  :  not  one  sight  since. 

Never  another  sight  to  be!     And  yet 

I  thought  I  had  saved  her.     I  appealed  to  Rome;  1565 

It  seems  I  simply  sent  her  to  her  death. 

You  tell  me  she  is  dying  now,  or  dead ; 


I  cannot  bring  m3rself  to  quite  believe 

This  is  a  place  you  torture  people  in : 

What  if  this  your  intelligence  were  just  1570 

A  subtlety,  an  honest  wile  to  work 

On  a  man  at  unawares  ?    'T  were  worthy  you. 

No,  Sirs,  I  cannot  have  the  lady  dead! 

That  erect  form,  flashing  brow,  fulgurant  eye, 

That  voice  immortal  (oh,  that  voice  of  hers!)  1575 

That  vision  in  the  blood-red  daybreak — that 

Leap  to  life  of  the  pale  electric  sword 

Angels  go  armed  with,  —  that  was  not  the  last 

O'  the  lady!    Come,  I  see  through  it,  you  find  — 

Know  the  manoeuvre!    Also  herself  said  1580 

I  had  saved  her :  do  you  dare  say  she  spoke  false? 

Let  me  see  for  myself  if  it  be  so! 

Though  she  were  dying,  a  Priest  might  be  of  use. 

The  more  when  he 's  a  friend  too,  —  she  called  me 

Far  beyond  "friend."    Come,  let  me  see  her — indeed      1585 

It  is  my  duty,  being  a  priest :  I  hope 

I  stand  confessed,  established,  proved  a  priest? 

My  punishment  had  motive  that,  a  priest 

I,  in  a  laic  garb,  a  mundane  mode. 

Did  what  were  harmlessly  done  otherwise.  1590 

I  never  touched  her  with  my  finger-tip 

Except  to  carry  her  to  the  couch,  that  eve, 

Against  my  heart,  beneath  my  head,  bowed  low, 

As  we  priests  carry  the  paten :  ^  that  is  why 

—  To  get  leave  and  go  see  her  of  your  grace  —  1595 

I  have  told  you  this  whole  story  over  again. 

Do  I  deserve  grace  ?    For  I  might  lock  hps. 

Laugh  at  your  jurisdiction  :  what  have  you 

To  do  with  me  in  the  matter?    I  suppose 

You  hardly  think  I  donned  a  bravo's  dress  1600 

To  have  a  hand  in  the  new  crime ;  on  the  old, 

Judgment 's  delivered,  penalty  imposed, 

I  was  chained  ^t  at  Civita  hand  and  foot  — 

She  had  only  you  to  trust  to,  you  and  Rome, 

Rome  and  the  Church,  and  no  pert  meddling  priest  1605 

Two  days  ago,  when  Guido,  with  the  right, 

Hacked  her  to  pieces.    One  might  well  be  wroth ; 

I  have  been  patient,  done  my  best  to  help : 

I  come  from  Civita  and  punishment 

As  friend  of  the  Court  —  and  for  pure  friendship's  sake     1610 

Have  told  my  tale  to  the  end,  —  nay,  not  the  end  — 

For,  wait  —  I  '11  end  —  not  leave  you  that  excuse! 

<  The  pattn  :  the  plate  pr  chalice  on  which  the  sficred  bread  of  the  communion  service 
if  carriei}. 

228  THE  RING  AND  TttB  BOOK. 

When  we  were  parted,  —  shall  I  go  on  there? 
I  was  presently  Drought  to  Rome  —  yes,  here  I  stood 
Opposite  yonder  very  crucifix —  1615 

And  there  sat  you  and  you.  Sirs,  quite  the  same. 
I  heard  charge,  and  bore  question,  and  told  tale 
Noted  down  in  the  book  there,  —  turn  and  see 
If,  by  one  jot  or  tittle,  I  vary  now! 

r  the  color  the  tale  takes,  there  ^s  change  perhaps ;  1620 

'T  is  natural,  since  the  sky  is  different. 
Eclipse  in  the  air  now ;  still,  the  outline  stays. 
I  showed  you  how  it  came  to  be  my  part 
To  save  the  lady.    Then  your  clerk  produced 
Papers,  a  pack  of  stupid  and  impure  1625 

Banalities  called  letters  about  love  — 
Love,  indeed, —  I  could  teach  who  styled  them  so, 
Better,  I  think,  though  priest  and  loveless  both! 
"  —  How  was  it  that  a  wife,  young,  innocent. 
And  stranger  to  your  person,  wrote  this  page?  " —  1630 

" — She  wrote  it  when  the  Holy  Father  wrote 
The  bestiality  that  posts  thro'  Rome, 
Put  in  his  mouth  by  Pasquin."  ^    "  Nor  perhaps 
Did  you  return  these  answers,  verse  and  prose. 
Signed,  sealed  and  sent  the  lady  ?    There 's  your  hand! "      1635 
**  —  This  precious  piece  of  verse,  I  really  judge, 
Is  meant  to  copy  my  own  character, 
A  clumsy  mimic ;  and  this  other  prose. 
Not  so  much  even ;  both  rank  forgery : 

Verse,  quotha?  Bembo's^  verse!    When  Saint  John  wrote    1640 
The  tract  ^De  Tribus^^  I  wrote  this  to  match." 
.     "  —  How  came  it,  then,  the  documents  were  found 
At  the  inn  on  your  departure ? "  —  "I  opine. 
Because  there  were  no  documents  to  find 

In  my  presence,  —  you  must  hide  before  you  find.  1645 

Who  forged  them  hardlv  practised  in  my  view ; 
Who  found  them  waited  till  I  turned  my  back." 
"  —  And  what  of  the  clandestine  visits  paid. 
Nocturnal  passage  in  and  out  the  house 

With  its  lord  absent?    'T  is  alleged  you  climbed  .  .  ."         1650 
"  —  Flew  on  a  broomstick  to  the  man  i'  the  moon! 
Who  witnessed  or  will  testify  this  trash  ?  " 
"  —  The  trusty  servant,  Margherita's  self, 
Even  she  who  brought  you  letters,  you  confess, 

*  Pasquin  :  the  name  given  to  a  statue  in         *  De  Tribus  :  the  blasphemous  and  legen- 

Rome  (from  Pasquino,  a  cobbler,  whose  shop  dary  tract "  De  Tribus  Impostoribus  "  (Moses, 

opposite  to  it  was  a  centre  of  gossip)    on  Mahomet,  and  Christ),  often   referred  to  in 

which  anonymous  squibs  were  posted.  the  Middle  Ages.     (For  an  account  of  this 

'  Btmbo  :  secretary  to  Pope  Leo  X.,  and  curious  tradition  of  a  non-existent  or  secret 

a  well-known  man  of  letters  (1470-1547).  work  see  "  Poet-lore,"  Vol.  VI.  p.  248.) 


And,  you  confess,  took  letters  in  reply :  1655 

Forget  not  we  have  knowledge  of  the  facts !  ^* 

"  —  Su^,  who  have  knowledge  of  the  fects,  defray 

The  expenditure  of  wit  I  waste  in  vain, 

Trying  to  find  out  just  one  £ict  of  all ! 

She  who  brought  letters  from  who  could  not  write,  1660 

And  took  back  letters  to  who  could  not  read,  — 

Who  was  that  messenger,  of  your  charity  ?  ^^ 

"  —  Well,  so  for  favors  you  the  circumstance 

That  this  same  messenger  .  .  .  how  shall  we  say  ?  •  •  . 

Sub  imputatione  meretricis  1665 

Laborat}-  —  which  makes  accusation  null : 

We  waive  this  woman^s :  naught  makes  void  the  next 

Borsi,  called  Venerino,  he  who  drove, 

O^  the  first  night  when  you  fled  away,  at  length 

Deposes  to  your  kissings  in  the  coach,  1670 

—  Frequent,  frenetic  .  .  ."    "When  deposed  he  so?" 

"  After  some  weeks  of  sharp  imprisonment  .  .  ." 

"  —  Granted  by  friend  the  Governor,  I  engage  —  " 

"  —  For  his  participation  in  your  flight ! 

At  length  his  obduracy  melting  made  1675 

The  avowal  mentioned.  .  .  ."    "  Was  dismissed  forthwith 

To  liberty,  poor  knave,  for  recompense. 

Sirs,  give  what  credit  to  the  lie  you  can! 

For  me,  no  word  in  my  defence  I  speak, 

And  God  shall  argue  for  the  lady  ! " 

So  1680 

Did  I  stand  question,  and  make  answer,  still 
With  the  same  result  of  smiling  disbelief, 
Polite  impossibility  of  faith 

In  such  affected  virtue  in  a  priest ;  ' 

But  a  showing  fair  play,  an  indulgence,  even,  1685 

To  one  no  worse  than  others  after  all  — 
Who  had  not  brought  disgrace  to  the  order,  played 
Discreetly,  ruffled  gown  nor  ripped  the  cloth 
In  a  bungling  game  at  romps :  I  have  told  you,  Sirs  — 
If  I  pretended  simply  to  be  pure,  1690 

Honest  and  Christian  in  the  case,  —  absurd! 
As  well  go  boast  myself  above  the  needs 
O^  the  human  nature,  careless  how  meat  smells. 
Wine  tastes,  —  a  saint  above  the  smack!    But  once 
Abate  my  crest,  own  flaws  i-  the  flesh,  agree  1695 

To  go  with  the  herd,  be  hog  no  more  nor  less. 
Why,  hogs  in  common  herd  have  common  rights : 
I  must  not  be  unduly  borne  upon. 
Who  just  romanced  a  little,  sowed  wild  oats, 

^  Sub  imputationt  mtrttricis  lahorai  :  "  labors  under  the  imputation  of  unchaitior*" 


But  ^scaped  without  a  scandal,  flagrant  fault.  1700 

My  name  helped  to  a  mirthful  circumstance : 
**  Joseph  "  would  do  well  to  amend  his  plea : 
Undoubtedly  —  some  toying  with  the  wife, 
But  as  for  ruffian  violence  and  rape, 

Potiphar  ^  pressed  too  much  on  the  other  side  I  1705 

The  intrigue,  the  elopement,  the  disguise,  —  well  charged! 
The  letters  and  verse  looked  hardly  like  the  truth. 
Your  apprehension  was  —  of  guilt  enough 
To  be  compatible  with  innocence. 

So,  punished  best  a  little  and  not  too  much.  17 10 

Had  I  struck  Guido  Franceschini's  face, 
You  had  counselled  me  withdraw  for  my  own  sake, 
Baulk  him  of  bravo-hiring.     Friends  came  round, 
.    Congratulated,  "Nobody  mistakes! 
The  pettiness  o'  the  forfeiture  defines  171 5 

The  peccadillo :  Guido  gets  his  share : 
His  wife  is  free  of  husband  and  hook-nose, 
The  mouldy  viands  and  the  mother-in-law. 
To  Civita  with  you  and  amuse  the  time, 

Travesty  us  ^De  Raptu  Helena ! '  ^  1720 

A  funny  figure  must  the  husband  cut 
When  the  wife  makes  him  skip,  —  too  ticklish,  eh? 
Do  it  in  Latin,  not  the  Vulgar,  then ! 
Scazons^ — we  '11  copy  and  send  his  Eminence. 
Mind  —  one  iambus  in  the  final  foot!  1725 

He  11  rectify  it,  be  your  friend  for  life! " 
Oh,  Sirs,  depend  on  me  for  much  new  light 
Thrown  on  the  justice  and  religion  here 
By  this  proceeding,  much  fresh  food  for  thought! 

And  I  was  just  set  down  to  study  these     ^  '  1730 

In  relegation,  two  short  days  ago. 

Admiring  how  you  read  the  rules,  when,  clap, 

A  thunder  comes  into  my  solitude  — 

I  am  caught  up  in  a  whirlwind  and  cast  here, 

Told  of  a  sudden,  in  this  room  where  so  late  1735 

You  dealt  out  law  adroitly,  that  those  scales, 

I  meekly  bowed  to,  took  my  allotment  from, 

Guido  has  snatched  at,  broken  in  your  hands. 

Metes  to  himself  the  murder  of  his  wife, 

Full  measure,  pressed  down,  running  over  now!  1740 

Can  I  assist  to  an  explanation  ?  —  Yes, 

I  rise  in  your  esteem,  sagacious  Sirs, 

^  Potiphar  :  Genesis  xxxix.  lo.  *  Scazons  :  iambic  verses,  with  a  spondee 

'  De  Raptu  Helena  :  of  the  carrying  off    in  the  final  foot  instead  of  an  iambus, 
^f  Helen  of  Troy. 


Stand  up  a  renderer  of  reasons,  not 

The  officious  priest  would  personate  Saint  George 

For  a  mock  Princess  in  undragoned  days.  1745 

What,  the  blood  startles  you?    What,  after  all 

The  priest  who  needs  must  carry  sword  on  thigh 

May  find  imperative  use  for  it  ?    Then,  there  was 

A  Princess,  was  a  dragon  belching  flame, 

And  should  have  been  a  Saint  George  also?    Then,  1750 

There  might  be  worse  schemes  than  to  break  the  bonds 

At  Arezzo,  lead  her  by  the  little  hand, 

Till  she  reached  Rome,  and  let  her  try  to  live  ? 

But  you  were  law  and  gospel,  —  would  one  please 

Stand  back,  allow  your  faculty  elbow-room?  1755 

You  blind ^ides  who  must  needs  lead  eyes  that  see! 

Fools,  alike  ignorant  of  man  and  God! 

What  was  there  here  should  have  perplexed  your  wit 

For  a  wink  of  the  owl-eyes  of  you  ?    How  miss,  then, 

What 's  now  forced  on  you  by  this  flare  of  fact  —  1760 

As  if  Saint  Peter  failed  to  recognize 

Nero  as  no  apostle,  John  or  James, 

Till  some  one  burned  a  martyr,  made  a  torcli 

O'  the  blood  and  fat  to  show  his  features  by! 

Could  you  fail  read  this  cartulary  arieht  1765 

On  head  and  front  of  Franceschini  there. 

Large-lettered  like  hell's  masterpiece  of  print,  — 

That  he,  from  the  beeinning  pricked  at  heart 

Bv  some  lust,  letch  of  hate  against  his  wife, 

Plotted  to  plague  her  into  overt  sin  1770 

And  shame,  would  slay  Pompilia  body  and  soul, 

And  save  his  mean  sen  —  miserably  caught 

r  the  quagmire  of  his  own  tricks,  cheats  and  lies? 

— That  himself  wrote  those  papers, — from  himself 

To  himself,  —  which,  i'  the  name  of  me  and  her,  1775 

His  mistress-messenger  gave  lier  and  me, 

Touching  us  with  such  pustules  of  the  soul 

That  she  and  I  might  take  the  taint,  be  shown 

To  the  world  and  shuddered  over,  speckled  so? 

— That  the  agent  put  her  sense  into  my  words,  1780 

Made  substitution  of  the  thing  she  hoped, 

For  the  thing  she  had  and  held,  its  opposite. 

While  the  husband  in  the  back^ound  bit  his  lips 

At  each  fresh  failure  of  his  precious  plot  ? 

— That  when  at  the  last  we  did  rush  each  on  each,  1785 

By  no  chance  but  because  God  willed  it  so  — 

The  spark  of  truth  was  struck  from  out  our  souls — 

Made  all  of  me,  descried  in  the  first  glance, 

Seem  fair  and  honest  and  permissible  love 

O'  the  good  and  true — as  the  first  glance  told  me  179P 

ip  The  h/atg  aatd  the  book. 

There  was  no  duty  patent  in  the  world 

Like  daring  try  be  good  and  true  myself, 

Leaving  the  shows  of  things  to  the  Lord  of  Show 

And  Prince  o'  the  Power  of  the  Air.    Our  very  flight. 

Even  to  its  most  ambiguous  circumstance,  1795 

Irrefragably  proved  how  futile,  false  .  .  . 

Why,  men  —  men  and  not  boys  —  boys  and  not  babes  — 

Babes  and  not  beasts — beasts  and  not  stocks  and  stones!  — 

Had  the  liar^s  lie  been  true  one  pin-point  speck, 

Were  I  the  accepted  suitor,  free  o'  the  place,  1800 

Disposer  of  the  time,  to  come  at  a  call 

And  go  at  a  wink  as  who  should  say  me  nay, — 

What  need  of  flight,  what  were  the  gain  therefrom 

But  just  damnation,  failure  or  success? 

Damnation  pure  and  simple  to  her  the  wife  1805 

And  me  the  priest  —  who  bartered  private  bliss 

For  public  reprobation,  the  safe  shade 

For  the  sunshine  which  men  see  to  pelt  me  by : 

What  other  advantage,  —  we  who  led  the  days 

And  nights  alone  i'  the  house, — was  flight  to  find?  18 10 

In  our  whole  journey  did  we  stop  an  hour. 

Diverge  a  foot  from  straight  road  till  we  reached 

Or  would  have  reached  —  but  for  that  fate  of  ours  — 

The  father  and  mother,  in  the  eye  of  Rome, 

The  eye  of  yourselves  we  made  aware  of  us  181 5 

At  the  first  fall  of  misfortune  ?    And  indeed 

You  did  so  far  give  sanction  to  our  flight. 

Confirm  its  purpose,  as  lend  helping  hand, 

Deliver  up  Pompilia  not  to  him 

She  fled,  but  those  the  flight  was  ventured  for.  1820 

Why  then  could  you,  who  stopped  short,  not  go  on 

One  poor  step  more,  and  justify  the  means. 

Having  allowed  the  end? — not  see  and  say 

"  Here 's  the  exceptional  conduct  that  should  claim 

To  be  exceptionally  judged  on  rules  1825 

Which,  understood,  make  no  exception  here"— 

Why  play  instead  into  the  devil's  hands 

By  dealing  so  ambiguously  as  ^ve 

Guido  the  power  to  intervene  like  me. 

Prove  one  exception  more?    I  saved  his  wife  1 830 

Against  law :  against  law  he  slays  her  now : 

Deal  with  him ! 

I  have  done  with  being  judged. 
I  stand  here  guiltless  in  thought,  word  and  deed. 
To  the  point  that  I  apprise  you, — in  contempt 
For  all  misapprehending  ignorance  1835 

O'  the  human  heart,  much  more  the  mind  of  Christ,— 


That  I  assuredly  did  bow,  was  blessed 

By  the  revelation  of  Pompilia.     There! 

Such  is  the  final  fact  I  flin^  you.  Sirs, 

To  mouth  and  mumble  and  misinterpret :  there!  1840 

"The  priest's  in  love,"  have  it  the  vulgar  way! 

Unpriest  me,  rend  the  raes  o'  the  vestment,  do  — 

Degrade  deep,  disenfranchise  all  you  dare  — 

Remove  me  from  the  midst,  no  longer  priest 

And  fit  companion  for  the  like  of  you —  184^ 

Your  gay  Abati  with  the  well-turned  leg 

And  rose  i'  the  hat-rim,  Canons,  cross  at  neck 

And  silk  mask  in  the  pocket  of  the  gown, 

Brisk  Bishops  with  the  world's  musk  still  unbrushed 

From  the  rochet ;  I  '11  no  more  of  these  good  things :         1850 

There 's  a  crack  somewhere,  something  that 's  unsound 

r  the  rattle! 

For  Pompilia  —  be  advised. 
Build  churches,  go  pray!    You  will  find  me  there, 
I  know,  if  you  come,  —  and  you  will  come,  I  know. 
Why,  there's  a  Judge  weeping!    Did  not  I  say  1855 

You  were  good  and  true  at  bottom  ?   You  see  the  truth  — 
I  am  glad  I  helped  you :  she  helped  me  just  so. 


But  for  Count  Guido, — you  must  counsel  there!  '  • 

I  bow  my  head,  bend  to  the  very  dust. 

Break  myself  up  in  shame  of  faultiness.  i860 

I  had  him  one  whole  moment,  as  I  said  — 

As  I  remember,  as  will  never  out 

O'  the  thoughts  of  me, —  I  had  him  in  arm's  reach 

There,  —  as  you  stand,  Sir,  now  you  cease  to  sit,  — 

I  could  have  killed  him  ere  he  killed  his  wife,  1865 

And  did  not :  he  went  off  alive  and  well 

And  then  effected  this  last  feat  —  through  me! 

Me  —  not  through  you  —  dismiss  that  fear!     'T  was  you 

Hindered  me  staying  here  to  save  her, — not 

From  leaving  you  and  going  back  to  him  1870 

And  doing  service  in  Arezzo.     Come, 

Instruct  me  in  procedure!     I  conceive  — 

In  all  due  self-abasement  might  I  speak  — 

How  you  will  deal  with  Guido :  oh,  not  death! 

Death,  if  it  let  her  life  be :  otherwise  1875 

Not  death, — your  lights  will  teach  you  clearer!    I 

Certainly  have  an  instinct  of  my  own 

I'  the  matter :  bear  with  me  and  weigh  its  worth ! 

Let  us  go  away  —  leave  Guido  all  alone 

Back  on  the  world  again  that  knows  him  now!  1880 

I  think  he  will  be  found  (indulge  so  far!) 

Not  to  die  so  much  as  slide  out  of  life, 


Pushed  by  the  general  horror  and  common  hate 

Low,  lower,  —  left  o'  the  very  ledge  of  things, 

I  seem  to  see  him  catch  convulsively  1885 

One  by  one  at  all  honest  forms  of  life. 

At  reason,  order,  decency  and  use  — 

To  cramp  him  and  get  foothold  by  at  least ; 

And  still  they  disengage  them  from  his  clutch. 

"What,  are  you  he,  then,  had  Pompilia  once  1890 

And  so  forewent  her?    Take  not  up  with  us!" 

And  thus  I  see  him  slowly  and  surely  edged 

Off  all  the  table-land  whence  life  upsprings 

Aspiring  to  be  immortality. 

As  the  snake,  hatched  on  hill-top  by  mischance,  1895 

Despite  his  wriggling,  slips,  slides,  slidders  down 

Hill-side,  lies  low  and  prostrate  on  the  smooth 

Level  of  the  outer  place,  lapsed  in  the  vale : 

So  I  lose  Guido  in  the  loneliness. 

Silence  and  dusk,  till  at  the  doleful  end,  1900 

At  the  horizontal  line,  creation's  verge, 

From  what  just  is  to  absolute  nothingness  — 

Whom  is  it,  straining  onward  still,  he  meets? 

What  other  man  deep  further  in  the  fate, 

Who,  turning  at  the  prize  of  a  footfall  1905 

To  flatter  him  and  promise  fellowship. 

Discovers  in  the  act  a  frightful  face  — 

Judas,  made  monstrous  by  much  solitude! 

The  two  are  at  one  now  I     Let  them  love  their  love 

That  bites  and  claws  like  hate,  or  hate  their  hate  1910 

That  mops  and  mows  and  makes  as  it  were  love' 

There,  let  them  each  tear  each  in  deviPs-fun, 

Or  fondle  this  the  other  while  malice  aches  — 

Both  teach,  both  learn  detestability! 

Kiss  him  the  kiss,  Iscariot!     Pay  that  back,  1915 

That  smatch  o'  the  slaver  blistering  on  your  lip, 

By  the  better  trick,  the  insult  he  spared  Christ  — 

Lure  him  the  lure  o'  the  letters,  Aretine! 

Lick  him  o'er  slimy-smooth  with  jelly-filth 

O'  the  verse-and-prose  pollution  in  love's  guise!  1920 

The  cockatrice  is  with  the  basilisk ! 

There  let  them  grapple,  denizens  o'  the  dark, 

Foes  or  friends,  but  indissolubly  bound, 

In  their  one  spot  out  of  the  ken  of  God 

Or  care  of  man,  for  ever  and  ever  more!  1925 

Why,  Sirs,  what 's  this?    Why,  this  is  sorry  and  strange! '  '"  -. 

Futility,  divagation  :  this  from  me 

Bound  to  be  rational,  justify  an  act 

Of  sober  man! — whereas,  being  moved  so  much, 



I  give  you  cause  to  doubt  the  lady^s  mind :  1930 

A  pretty  sarcasm  for  the  world!    I  fear 

You  do  her  wit  injustice,  —  all  through  me! 

Like  my  £ite  all  through, — ineffective  help! 

A  poor  rash  advocate  I  prove  myself. 

You  might  be  angry  with  good  cause :  but  sure  1935 

At  the  advocate,  —  only  at  the  undue  zeal 

That  spoils  the  force  of  his  own  plea,  I  think  ? 

My  part  was  just  to  tell  you  how  things  stand, 

State  facts  and  not  be  flustered  at  their  fume. 

But  then  H  is  a  priest  speaks :  as  for  love,  —  no!  1940 

If  you  let  buzz  a  vulgar  fly  like  that 

About  your  brains,  as  if  I  loved,  forsooth. 

Indeed,  Sirs,  you  do  wrong!    We  had  no  thought 

Of  such  infatuation,  she  and  I : 

There  are  many  points  that  prove  it :  do  be  just!  1945 

I  told  you,  —  at  one  little  roadside-place 

I  spent  a  good  half-hour,  paced  to  and  fro 

The  garden ;  just  to  leave  her  free  awhile, 

I  pluoced  a  handful  of  Spring  herb  and  bloom : 

I  might  have  sat  beside  her  on  the  bench  1950 

Where  the  children  were :  I  wish  the  thing  had  been, 

Indeed :  the  event  could  not  be  worse,  you  know : 

One  more  half-hour  of  her  saved!    She  ^s  dead  now,  Sirs! 

While  I  was  running  on  at  such  a  rate. 

Friends  should  have  plucked  me  by  the  sleeve :  I  went     1955 

Too  much  o*  the  trivial  outside  of  her  face 

And  the  purity  that  shone  there — plain  to  me, 

Not  to  you,  what  more  natural  ?    Nor  am  I 

In£eituated,  —  oh,  I  saw,  be  sure! 

Her  brow  had  not  the  right  line,  leaned  too  much,  i960 

Painters  would  say ;  they  like  the  straight-up  Greek : 

This  seemed  bent  somewhat  with  an  invisible  crown 

Of  martyr  and  saint,  not  such  as  art  approves. 

And  how  the  dark  orbs  dwelt  deep  underneath. 

Looked  out  of  such  a  sad  sweet  heaven  on  me!  1965 

The  lips,  compressed  a  little,  came  forward  too, 

Careful  for  a  whole  world  of  sin  and  pain. 

That  was  the  face,  her  husband  makes  his  plea, 

He  sought  just  to  disfigure, — no  offence 

Beyond  that!    Sirs,  let  us  be  rational!  1970 

He  needs  must  vindicate  his  honor,  —  ay. 

Yet  shirks,  the  coward,  in  a  clown's  disguise, 

Away  from  the  scene,  endeavors  to  escape. 

Now,  had  he  done  so,  slain  and  left  no  trace 

O'  the  slayer,  —  what  were  vindicated,  pray?  1975 

You  had  found  his  wife  disfigured  or  a  corpse. 

For  what  and  by  whom?    It  is  too  palpable! 


Then,  here 's  another  point  involving  law : 

I  use  this  argument  to  show  you  meant 

No  calumny  against  us  by  that  title  «  1980 

O'  the  sentence,  —  liars  try  to  twist  it  so : 

What  penalty  it  bore,  I  had  to  pay 

Till  further  proof  should  follow  of  innocence — 

Probationis  ob  defectum^  —  proof? 

How  could  you  get  proof  without  trying  us  ?  1985 

You  went  through  the  preliminary  form. 

Stopped  there,  contrived  this  sentence  to  amuse 

The  adversary.     If  the  title  ran 

For  more  than  fault  imputed  and  not  proved, 

That  was  a  simple  penman^s  error,  else  1990 

A  slip  i'  the  phrase, — as  when  we  say  of  you 

"  Charged  with  injustice  "  —  which  may  either  be 

Or  not  be,  —  't  is  a  name  that  sticks  meanwhile. 

Another  relevant  matter :  fool  that  I  am ! 

Not  what  I  wish  true,  yet  a  point  friends  urge :  1995 

It  is  not  true, — yet,  since  friends  think  it  helps, — 

She  only  tried  me  when  some  others  failed  — 

Began  with  Conti,  whom  I  told  you  of. 

And  Guillichini,  Guido's  kinsfolk  both, 

And  when  abandoned  by  them,  not  before,  2000 

Turned  to  me.     That 's  conclusive  why  she  turned. 

Much  good  they  got  by  the  happy  cowardice! 

Conti  is  dead,  poisoned  a  month  ago : 

Does  that  much  strike  you  as  a  sin  ?    Not  much, 

After  the  present  murder,  —  one  mark  more  2005 

On  the  Moor's  skin,  —  what  is  black  by  blacker  still? 

Conti  had  come  here  and  told  truth.     And  so 

With  Guillichini ;  he 's  condemned  of  course 

To  the  galleys,  as  a  friend  in  this  affair. 

Tried  and  condemned  for  no  one  thing  i'  the  world,  2010 

A  fortnight  since  by  who  but  the  Governor? — 

The  just  judge,  who  refused  Pompilia  help 

At  first  blush,  being  her  husband's  friend,  you  know. 

There  are  two  tales  to  suit  the  separate  courts, 

Arezzo  and  Rome :  he  tells  you  here,  we  fled  2015 

Alone,  unhelped,  —  lays  stress  on  the  main  fault. 

The  spiritual  sin,  Rome  looks  to :  but  elsewhere 

He  likes  best  we  should  break  in,  steal,  bear  off. 

Be  fit  to  brand  and  pillory  and  flog  — 

That 's  the  charge  goes  to  the  heart  of  the  Governor :       2020 

If  these  unpriest  me,  you  and  I  may  yet 

Converse,  Vincenzo  Marzi-Medici ! 

Oh,  Sirs,  there  are  worse  men  than  you,  I  say! 

^  Probationis  oh  defectum  :  "  for  want  of  sufficient  proof." 


More  easily  duped,  I  mean ;  this  stupid  lie, 

Its  liar  never  dared  propound  in  Rome,  2025 

He  gets  Arezzo  to  receive,  —  nay  more. 

Gets  Florence  and  the  Duke  to  authorize! 

This  is  their  Rota^s  sentence,  their  Granduke 

Sifi^ns  and  seals!    Rome  for  me  henceforward — Rome, 

Where  better  men  are,  —  most  of  all,  that  man  2030 

The  Augustinian  of  the  Hospital, 

Who  wntes  the  letter,^ — he  confessed,  he  says. 

Many  a  dying  person,  never  one 

So  sweet  and  true  and  pure  and  beautiful. 

A  good  man!    Will  you  make  him  Pope  one  day?  2035 

Not  that  he  is  not  good  too,  this  we  have  — 

But  old,  —  else  he  would  have  his  word  to  speak. 

His  truth  to  teach  the  world :  I  thirst  for  truth, 

But  shall  not  drink  it  till  I  reach  the  source. 

Sirs,  I  am  quiet  asain.    You  see,  we  are  i ,  vN  '  *  2040 

So  very  pitiable,  she  and  I, 

Who  had  conceivably  been  otherwise. 

Forget  distemperature  and  idle  heat! 

Apart  from  truth^s  sake,  what  ^s  to  move  so  much  ? 

Pompilia  will  be  presently  with  God ;  2045 

I  am,  on  earth,  as  good  as  out  of  it, 

A  relegated  priest ;  when  exile  ends, 

I  mean  to  do  my  duty  and  live  long. 

She  and  I  are  mere  strangers  now :  but  priests 

Should  study  passion ;  how  else  cure  mankind,  2050 

Who  come  for  help  in  passionate  extremes  ? 

I  do  but  play  with  an  imagined  life 

Of  who,  unfettered  by  a  vow,  unblessed 

By  the  higher  call,  —  since  you  will  have  it  so,  — 

Leads  it  companioned  by  the  woman  there.  2055 

To  live,  and  see  her  learn,  and  learn  by  her. 

Out  of  the  low  obscure  and  petty  world  — 

Or  only  see  one  purpose  and  one  will 

Evolve  themselves  T  the  world,  change  wrong  to  right : 

To  have  to  do  with  nothing  but  the  true,  2060 

The  good,  the  eternal  —  and  these,  not  alone 

In  the  main  current  of  the  general  life. 

But  small  experiences  of  every  day, 

^Augustinian,  .  .  who  writes  the  letter :  not  say  more  for  fear  of  being  taxed  with 

Fr&  Celestino  Angelo  di  Sant  Anna,  the  Au-  partiality.    I  know  well  that  God  alone  can 

gustinian  monk  who  confessed  Pompilia,  and  examine  the  heart.      But  I  know  also  that 

whose  deposition  is  given  in  a  contemporary  from  the  abundance  of  the  heart  the  mouth 

pamphlet  describing  the  case,  which  fell  into  speaks;  and  that  my  great  St.  Augustine  says: 

Browning's  hands  in  London.    The  confessor  *  As  the  life  was,  so  is  its  end.' " 
concluded  his  deposition  as  follows:  "I  do 


Concerns  of  the  particular  hearth  and  home : 

To  learn  not  only  by  a  comet's  rush  2065 

But  a  rose's  birth,  —  not  by  the  grandeur,  God  — 

But  the  comfort,  Christ.    All  this,  how  far  away! 

Mere  delectation,  meet  for  a  minute's  dream! — 

Just  as  a  drudging  student  trims  his  lamp. 

Opens  his  Plutarch,^  puts  him  in  the  place  2070 

Of  Roman,  Grecian ;  draws  the  patched  gown  close, 

Dreams,  **Thus  should  I  fight,  save  or  rule  the  world!"  — 

Then  smilingly,  contentedly,  awakes 

To  the  old  solitary  nothingness. 

So  I,  from  such  communion,  pass  content  .  .  .  2075 

O  great,  just,  good  God!    Miserable  me! 

*  Plutarch  :  whose  book  relates  the  lives  of  Greek  and  Roman  heroes. 

POMPIUA.  239 



[Pompilia,  as  she  lies  dying  in  the  hospital,  tells  the  story  of  her  life  with  a  sim- 
plicity, durectness,  and  compassionateness  that  reveal  a  nature  absolutely  self-poised, 
—  a  nature  that  perceives  the  intrinsically  right  with  unerring  certainty  in  spite  of 
Church,  law,  and  public  opinion,  yet  is  forgiving  toward  those  who  had  brought 
upon  her  such  agonies  of  spirit,  and  can  even  accept  the  darkest  crime  of  all  as 
the  means  by  which  she  will  immediately  attain  the  realization  of  perfect  love.] 

I  AM  just  seventeen  years  and  five  months  old, 

And,  if  I  lived  one  day  more,  three  full  weeks ; 

T  is  writ  so  in  the  church's  register, 

Lorenzo  in  Lucina,  all  my  names 

At  length,  so  many  names  for  one  poor  child,  5 

—  Francesca  Camilla  Vittoria  Angela 

Pompilia  Comparini, —  laughable! 

Also  H  is  writ  that  I  was  married  there 

Four  years  ago :  and  they  will  add,  I  hope, 

When  they  insert  my  death,  a  word  or  two,  —  10 

Omitting  all  about  the  mode  of  death,  — 

This,  in  its  place,  this  which  one  cares  to  know, 

That  1  had  been  a  mother  of  a  son 

Exactly  two  weeks.     It  will  be  through  grace 

O'  the  Curate,  not  through  any  claim  I  have ;  15 

Because  the  boy  was  born  at,  so  baptized 

Close  to,  the  Villa,  in  the  proper  church : 

A  pretty  church,  I  say  no  word  against. 

Yet  stranger-like,  —  while  this  Lorenzo  seems 

My  own  particular  place,  I  always  say.  20 

I  used  to  wonder,  when  I  stood  scarce  high 

As  the  bed  here,  what  the  marble  lion  meant,^ 

With  half  his  body  rushing  from  the  wall. 

Eating  the  figure  of  a  prostrate  man  — 

(To  the  right,  it  is,  of  entry  by  the  door)  25 

An  ominous  sign  to  one  baptized  like  me, 

Married,  and  to  be  buried  there,  I  hope. 

And  they  should  add,  to  have  my  life  complete, 

He  is  a  boy  and  Gaetan  by  name  — 

1  What  the  marble  lion  meant :  a  lion  The  lions  in  the  portico  are,  together  with  the 
preying  (Hi  a  man  symbolized  the  severity  of  Campanile,  the  oldest  part  of  the  church  ol 
the  Church  toward  the  impenitent  or  heretical.    San  Lorenzo. 


Gaetano,  for  a  reason,  —  if  the  friar  30 

Don  Celestine  will  ask  this  grace  for  me 

Of  Curate  Ottoboni :  he  it  was 

Baptized  me :  he  remembers  my  whole  life 

As  I  do  his  gray  hair. 

All  these  few  things    j 
I  know  are  true,  —  will  you  remember  them?  35 

Because  time  flies.     The  surgeon  cared  for  me, 
To  count  my  wounds,  —  twenty-two  dagger-wounds, 
Five  deadly,  but  I  do  not  suffer  much  — 
Or  too  much  pain,  —  and  am  to  die  to-night. 

Oh  how  good  God  is  that  my  babe  was  born,  40 

—  Better  than  born,  baptized  and  hid  away 

Before  this  happened,  safe  from  being  hurt ! 

That  had  been  sin  God  could  not  well  forgive : 

He  was  too  young  to  smile  and  save  himself. 

When  they  took,  two  days  after  he  was  bom,  45 

My  babe  away  from  me  to  be  baptized 

And  hidden  awhile,  for  fear  his  foe  should  find,  — 

The  country-woman,  used  to  nursing  babes. 

Said  "  Why  take  on  so  ?  where  is  the  great  loss  ? 

These  next  three  weeks  he  will  but  sleep  and  feed,  50 

Only  begin  to  smile  at  the  month's  end ; 

He  would  not  know  you,  if  you  kept  him  here, 

Sooner  than  that ;  so,  spend  three  merry  weeks 

Snug  in  the  Villa,  getting  strong  and  stout. 

And  then  I  bring  him  back  to  be  your  own,  55 

And  both  of  you  may  steal  to  —  we  know  where! " 

The  month  —  there  wants  of  it  two  weeks  this  day! 

Still,  I  half  fancied  when  I  heard  the  knock 

At  the  Villa  in  the  dusk,  it  might  prove  she  — 

Come  to  say  "  Since  he  smiles  before  the  time,  60 

Why  should  I  cheat  you  out  of  one  good  hour? 

Back  I  have  brought  him ;  speak  to  nim  and  judge!  ^ 

Now  I  shall  never  see  him ;  what  is  worse, 

When  he  grows  up  and  gets  to  be  my  age. 

He  will  seem  hardly  more  than  a  great  boy ;  65 

And  if  he  asks  "  What  was  my  mother  like? " 

People  may  answer  "  Like  girls  of  seventeen  "  — 

And  how  can  he  but  think  of  this  and  that, 

Lucias,  Marias,  Sofias,  who  titter  or  blush 

When  he  regards  them  as  such  boys  may  do  ?  70 

Therefore  I  wish  some  one  will  please  to  say 

I  looked  already  old  though  I  was  young ; 

Do  I  not  .  .  .  say,  if  you  are  by  to  speak  .  .  . 

Look  nearer  twenty?    No  more  like,  at  least, 

POMPIUA.  341 

Girls  who  look  arch  or  redden  when  boys  laugh,  75 

Than  the  poor  Virgin  that  I  used  to  know 

At  our  street-corner  in  a  lonely  niche,  — 

The  babe,  that  sat  upon  her  knees,  broke  off, — 

Thin  white  glazed  clay,  you  pitied  her  the  more : 

She,  not  the  gay  ones,  always  got  my  rose.  80 



How  happy  those  are  wlio  know  how  to  write! 

Such  could  write  what  their  son  should  read  in  time, 

Had  they  a  whole  day  to  live  out  like  me. 

Also  my  name  is  not  a  common  name, 

"  Pompilia,"  and  may  help  to  keep  apart  85 

A  little  the  thing  I  am  from  what  girls  are. 

But  then  how  far  away,  how  hard  to  find 

Will  anything  about  me  have  become. 

Even  if  the  boy  bethink  himself  and  ask! 

No  father  that  he  ever  knew  at  all,  90 

Nor  ever  had  —  no,  never  had,  I  say! 

That  is  the  truth,  —  nor  any  mother  left, 

Out  of  the  little  two  weeks  that  she  lived, 

Fit  for  such  memory  as  might  assist : 

As  good  too  as  no  family,  no  name,  95 

Not  even  poor  old  Pietro's  name,  nor  hers, 

Poor  kind  unwise  Violante,  since  it  seems 

They  must  not  be  my  parents  any  more. 

That  is  why  something  put  it  in  my  head 

To  call  the  boy  "Gaetano" — no  old  name  100 

For  sorrow's  sake ;  I  looked  up  to  the  sky 

And  took  a  new  saint  ^  to  begin  anew. 

One  who  has  only  been  made  saint  —  how  long? 

Twenty-five  years :  so,  carefiiller,  perhaps, 

To  guard  a  namesake  than  those  old  saints  grow,  105 

Tired  out  by  this  time,  —  see  my  own  five  saints ! 

On  second  thoughts,  I  hope  he  will  regard 

The  history  of  me  as  what  some  one  dreamed, 

And  get  to  disbelieve  it  at  the  last : 

Since  to  myself  it  dwindles  fast  to  that,  no 

Sheer  dreaming  and  impossibility,  — 

Just  in  four  days  too!    All  the  seventeen  years, 

Not  once  did  a  suspicion  visit  me 

How  very  different  a  lot  is  mine 

From  any  other  woman's  in  the  world.  115 

The  reason  must  be,  't  was  by  step  and  step 

It  got  to  grow  so  terrible  and  strange. 

^A  new  saint':    St  Gaetan  or  Cajetan,    Z480-X 547,  and  was  canonized  by  Qement  X.* 
founder  of  the  order  of  Theadns,  who  lived    in  1671. 



These  strange  woes  stole  on  tiptoe,  as  it  were. 

Into  my  neighborhood  and  privacy, 

Sat  down  where  I  sat,  laid  them  where  I  lay ;  X20 

And  I  was  found  familiarized  with  fear, 

When  friends  broke  in,  held  up  a  torch  aCnd  cried 

"  Why,  you  Pompilia  in  the  cavern  thus. 

How  comes  that  arm  of  yours  about  a  wolf? 

And  the  soft  length, — lies  in  and  out  your  feet  125 

And  laps  you  round  the  knee, — a  snake  it  is!" 

And  so  on. 

Well,  and  they  are  right  enough,     '  *^ 
By  the  torch  they  hold  up  now :  for  first,  observe 
I  never  had  a  father, — no,  nor  yet 

A  mother :  my  own  boy  can  say  at  least  130 

"  I  had  a  mother  whom  I  kept  two  weeks! " 
Not  I,  who  little  used  to  doubt  .  .  .  /doubt 
Good  Pietro,  kind  Violante,  gave  me  birth? 
They  loved  me  always  as  I  love  my  babe 
( — Nearly  so,  that  is  —  quite  so  could  not  be — )  X35 

Did  for  me  all  I  meant  to  do  for  him. 
Till  one  surprising  day,  three  years  ago. 
They  both  declared,  at  Rome,  before  some  judge 
In  some  Court  where  the  people  flocked  to  hear. 
That  really  I  had  never  been  their  child,  140 

Was  a  mere  castaway,  the  careless  crime 
Of  an  unknown  man,  the  crime  and  care  too  much 
Of  a  woman  known  too  well, — little  to  these. 
Therefore,  of  whom  I  was  the  flesh  and  blood : 
What  then  to  Pietro  and  Violante,  both  145 

No  more  my  relatives  than  you  or  you? 
Nothing  to  them!    You  know  what  they  declared. 

So  with  my  husband, — just  such  a  surprise,  "" 

Such  a  mistake,  in  that  relationship! 

Every  one  says  that  husbands  love  their  wives,  150 

Guard  them  and  guide  them,  ^ve  them  happiness ; 

'T  is  duty,  law,  pleasure,  religion :  well. 

You  see  how  much  of  this  comes  true  in  mine! 

People  indeed  would  fain  have  somehow  proved 

He  was  no  husband :  but  he  did  not  hear,  155 

Or  would  not  wait,  and  so  has  killed  us  all. 

Then  there  is  .  .  .  only  let  me  name  one  more! 

There  is  the  friend,  —  men  will  not  ask  about. 

But  tell  untruths  of,  and  give  nicknames  to. 

And  think  my  lover,  most  surprise  of  all!  160 

Do  only  hear,  it  is  the  priest  they  mean, 

Giuseppe  Caponsacchi :  a  priest  —  love, 


And  love  me!   Well,  yet  people  think  he  did. 

I  am  married,  he  has  taken  priestly  vows, 

They  know  that,  and  yet  go  on,  say,  the  same,  165 

"  Yes,  how  he  loves  you! "    "  That  was  love  "  —  they  say. 

When  anjrthing  is  answered  that  they  ask : 

Or  else  "  No  wonder  you  love  him  ". —  they  say. 

Then  they  shake  heads,  pity  much,  scarcely  blame — 

As  if  we  neither  of  us  lacked  excuse,  170 

And  anyhow  are  punished  to  the  fiill. 

And  downright  love  atones  for  everything! 

Nay,  I  heard  read  out  in  the  public  Court 

Before  the  judge,  in  presence  of  my  friends, 

Letters  ^t  was  said  the  priest  had  sent  to  me,  175 

And  other  letters  sent  him  by  myself. 

We  being  lovers! 

Listen  what  this  is  like! 
When  I  was  a  mere  child,  my  mother  .  .  .  that 's 
Violante,  you  must  let  me  call  her  so 

Nor  waste  time,  trying  to  unlearn  the  word  ...  180 

She  brought  a  neighbor's  child  of  my  own  age 
To  play  with  me  of  rainy  afternoons ; 
And,  smce  there  hung  a  tapestry  on  the  wall,^ 
We  two  agreed  to  find  each  other  out 

Among  the  figures.    "Tisbe,  that  is  you,  185 

With  half-moon  on  your  hair-knot,  spear  in  hand, 
Flying,  but  no  wings,  only  the  great  scarf 
Blown  to  a  bluish  rainbow  at  your  back : 
Call  off  your  hound  and  leave  the  stae  alone! " 
**  —  Ana  there  are  you,  Pompilia,  such  green  leaves  190 

Flourishing  out  of  your  five  nnger  ends. 
And  all  the  rest  of  you  so  brown  and  rough : 
Why  is  it  you  are  turned  a  sort  of  tree  ?  " 
You  know  the  figures  never  were  ourselves 
Though  we  nicknamed  them  so.    Thus,  all  my  life,  —       195 
As  well  what  was,  as  what,  like  this,  was  not,  — 
Looks  old,  fantastic  and  impossible : 
I  touch  a  fairy  thing  that  fades  and  fades. 
—  Even  to  my  babe !  I  thought,  when  he  was  bom^ 
Something  began  for  once  that  would  not  end,  200 

Nor  change  into  a  laugh  at  me,  but  stay 
For  evermore,  eternally  quite  mine. 
Well,  so  he  is,  —  but  yet  they  bore  him  off, 
The  third  day,  lest  my  husband  should  lay  traps 
And  catch  him,  and  by  means  of  him  catch  me.  205 

Since  they  have  saved  him  so,  it  was  well  done : 

^  A  tapestry  on  the  wail :  this  tapestry  evidently  represented  Diana  hunting  a  stag 
and  hanuuihyads,  or  tree  nymphs. 


Yet  thence  comes  such  confusion  of  what  was 

With  what  will  be,  —  that  l2ite  seems  long  ago, 

And,  what  years  should  bring  round,  already  come. 

Till  even  he  withdraws  into  a  dream  210 

As  the  rest  do :  I  fancy  him  grown  great, 

Strong,  stern,  a  tall  young  man  who  tutors  me. 

Frowns  with  the  others  "  Poor  imprudent  child! 

Why  did  you  venture  out  of  the  safe  street? 

Why  go  so  far  from  help  to  that  lone  house?  215 

Why  open  at  the  whisper  and  the  knock  ?  " 

Six  days  aeo  when  it  was  New  Year*s-day, 

We  bent  above  the  fire  and  talked  of  him. 

What  he  should  do  when  he  was  grown  and  great. 

Violante,  Pietro,  each  had  given  the  arm  220 

I  leant  on,  to  walk  by,  from  couch  to  chair 

And  fireside,  —  laughed,  as  I  lay  safe  at  last, 

"  Pompilia's  march  from  bed  to  board  is  made, 

PompUia  back  again  and  with  a  babe. 

Shall  one  day  lend  his  arm  and  help  her  walk! "  225 

Then  we  all  wished  each  other  more  New  Years. 

Pietro  began  to  scheme  —  "  Our  cause  is  gained ; 

The  law  is  stronger  than  a  wicked  man : 

Let  him  henceforth  go  his  way,  leave  us  ours! 

We  will  avoid  the  city,  tempt  no  more  230 

The  greedy  ones  by  feasting  and  parade,  — 

Live  at  the  other  villa,  we  know  where. 

Still  farther  off,  and  we  can  watch  the  babe 

Grow  fast  in  the  good  air ;   and  wood  is  cheap 

And  wine  sincere  outside  the  city  gate.  235 

I  still  have  two  or  three  old  friends  will  grope 

Their  way  along  the  mere  half-mile  of  road, 

With  staff  and  lantern  on  a  moonless  night 

When  one  needs  talk :  they  '11  find  me,  never  fear, 

And  I  '11  find  them  a  flask  of  the  old  sort  yet ! "  240 

Violante  said  "  You  chatter  like  a  crow : 

Pompilia  tires  o'  the  tattle,  and  shall  to  bed : 

Do  not  too  much  the  first  day,  —  somewhat  more 

To-morrow,  and,  the  next,  begin  the  cape 

And  hood  and  coat !     I  have  spun  wool  enough."  245 

Oh  what  a  happy  friendly  eve  was  that! 

And,  next  day,  about  noon,  out  Pietro  went  —  ^  ^ 

He  was  so  happy  and  would  talk  so  much, 

Until  Violante  pushed  and  laughed  him  forth 

Sight-seeing  in  the  cold,  —  "  So  much  to  see  250 

r  the  churches!     Swathe  your  throat  three  times! "  she  cried, 

."  And,  above  all,  beware  the  slippery  ways, 

POMPIUA.  245 

And  brine  us  all  the  news  by  supper-time!** 

He  came  back  late,  laid  by  cloak,  staff  and  hat, 

Powdered  so  thick  with  snow  it  made  us  laueh,  255 

Rolled  a  great  log  upon  the  ash  o*  the  hearth. 

And  bade  Violante  treat  us  to  a  flask, 

Because  he  had  obeyed  her  £euthfully, 

Gone  sight-see  through  the  seven,  and  found  no  church 

To  his  mind  like  San  Giovanni  ^  —  "  There 's  the  fold,        260 

And  all  the  sheep  together,  big  as  cats! 

And  such  a  shepherd,  half  the  size  of  life, 

Starts  up  and  hears  the  anger^  —  when,  at  the  door, 

A  tap :  we  started  up :  you  know  the  rest. 

Pietro  at  least  had  done  no  harm,  I  know ;  265 

Nor  even  Violante,  so  much  harm  as  makes 

Such  revenge  lawful.    Certainly  she  erred  — 

Did  wrong,  how  shall  I  dare  say  otherwise  ?  — 

In  telling  that  first  falsehood,  buying  me 

From  my  poor  faulty  mother  at  a  pnce,  270 

To  pass  on  upon  Pietro  as  his  child. 

If  one  should  take  my  babe,  give  him  a  name. 

Say  he  was  not  Gaetano  and  my  own. 

But  that  some  other  woman  made  his  mouth 

And  hands  and  feet,  —  how  very  false  were  that!  275 

No  ^ood  could  come  of  that ;  and  all  harm  did. 

Yet  if  a  stranger  were  to  represent 

"  Needs  must  you  either  give  your  babe  to  me 

And  let  me  call  him  mine  for  evermore. 

Or  let  your  husband  get  him  "  —  ah,  my  God,  280 

That  were  a  trial  I  refuse  to  face! 

Well,  just  so  here :  it  proved  wrong  but  seemed  right 

To  poor  Violante  —  for  there  lay,  she  said. 

My  poor  real  dying  mother  in  her  rags. 

Who  put  me  from  her  with  the  life  and  all,  285 

Poverty,  pain,  shame  and  disease  at  once, 

To  die  the  easier  by  what  price  I  fetched  — 

Also  (I  hope)  because  I  should  be  spared 

Sorrow  and  sin,  —  why  may  not  that  have  helped? 

My  father,  —  he  was  no  one,  any  one,  —  290 

The  worse,  the  likelier,  —  call  him  —  he  who  came, 

Was  wicked  for  his  pleasure,  went  his  way, 

And  left  no  trace  to  track  by ;  there  remained 

Nothing  but  me,  the  unnecessary  life, 

To  catch  up  or  let  fall,  —  and  yet  a  thing  295 

1  San  Giovanni:  this  church  is  built  upon  dates  from  the  time  of  G>nstantine,  and  is 
the  site  of  the  ancient  palace  of  Plautius  Lat-  first  in  rank  of  the  five  patriarchal  churches, 
exanus,  hence  it  is  called  "  The  Lateran."    It 


She  could  make  happy,  be  made  happy  with, 
This  poor  Violante,  —  who  would  frown  thereat? 

Well,  God,  you  see!    God  plants  us  where  we  grow.  0 

It  is  not  that  because  a  bud  is  born 

At  a  wild  briar's  end,  full  i'  the  wild  beast's  way,  300 

We  ought  to  pluck  and  put  it  out  of  reach 

On  the  oak-tree  top,  —  say  "There  the  bud  belongs!" 

She  thought,  moreover,  real  lies  were  lies  told 

For  harm's  sake ;  whereas  this  had  good  at  heart, 

Good  for  my  mother,  good  for  me,  and  good  305 

For  Pietro  who  was  meant  to  love  a  babe. 

And  needed  one  to  make  his  life  of  use, 

Receive  his  house  and  land  when  he  should  die. 

Wrong,  wrone  and  always  wrong!  how  plainly  wrong! 

For  see,  this  iault  kept  pricking,  as  &ults  do,  310 

All  the  same  at  her  heart :  this  falsehood  hatched^ 

She  could  not  let  it  go  nor  keep  it  fast. 

She  told  me  so,  —  the  first  time  I  was  found 

Locked  in  her  arms  once  more  after  the  pain, 

When  the  nuns  let  me  leave  them  and  go  home,  315 

And  both  of  us  cried  all  the  cares  away,  — 

This  it  was  set  her  on  to  make  amends, 

This  brought  about  the  marriage  —  simply  this! 

Do  let  me  speak  for  her  you  blame  so  much ! 

When  Paul,  my  husband's  brother,  found  me  out,  320 

Heard  there  was  wealth  for  who  should  marry  me, 

So,  came  and  made  a  speech  to  ask  my  hand 

For  Guido,  —  she,  instead  of  piercing  straight 

Through  the  pretence  to  the  ignoble  truth, 

Fancied  she  saw  God's  very  finger  point,  325 

Designate  just  the  time  for  planting  me 

(The  wild-briar  slip  she  plucked  to  love  and  wear) 

In  soil  where  I  could  strike  real  root,  and  grow, 

And  get  to  be  the  thing  I  called  myself: 

For,  wife  and  husband  are  one  flesh,  God  says,  330 

And  I,  whose  parents  seemed  such  and  were  none, 

Should  in  a  husband  have  a  husband  now. 

Find  nothing,  this  time,  but  was  what  it  seemed, 

—  All  truth  and  no  confusion  any  more. 

I  know  she  meant  all  good  to  me,  all  pain  335 

To  herself,  —  since  how  could  it  be  aught  but  pain, 

To  give  me  up,  so,  from  her  very  breast, 

The  wilding  flower-tree-branch  that,  all  those  years. 

She  had  got  used  to  feel  for  and  find  fixed? 

She  meant  well :  has  it  been  so  ill  i'  the  main?  340 

That  is  but  fair  to  ask :  one  cannot  judge 

Of  what  has  been  the  ill  or  well  of  life, 

POMPIUA.  '     247 

The  day  that  one  is  dying, — sorrows  change 

Into  not  altogether  sorrow-like ; 

I  do  see  strangeness  but  scarce  misery,  345 

Now  it  is  over,  and  no  danger  more. 

My  child  is  safe ;  there  seems  not  so  much  pain. 

It  comes,  most  like,  that  I  am  just  absolved. 

Purged  of  the  past,  the  foul  in  me,  washed  ^r,  — 

One  cannot  both  have  and  not  have,  you  know,  —  350 

Being  right  now,  I  am  happy  and  color  things. 

Yes,  everybody  that  leaves  life  sees  all 

Softened  and  bettered :  so  with  other  sights : 

To  me  at  least  was  never  evening  yet 

But  seemed  far  beautifuller  than  its  day,  355 

For  past  is  past. 

There  was  a  fancy  came,    3  ^  ^ 
When  somewhere,  in  the  journey  with  my  friend, 
We  stepped  into  a  hovel  to  get  food ; 
And  there  began  a  yelp  here,  a  bark  there,  — 
Misunderstanding  creatures  that  were  wroth  360 

And  vexed  themselves  and  us  till  we  retired. 
The  hovel  is  life :  no  matter  what  dogs  bit 
Or  cats  scratched  in  the  hovel  I  break  from. 
All  outside  is  lone  field,  moon  and  such  peace — 
Flowing  in,  filling  up  as  with  a  sea  365 

Whereon  comes  Someone,  walks  fast  on  the  white, 
Jesus  Christ's  self,  Don  CelesfftR  declares. 
To  meet  me  and  calm  all  things  back  again. 

Beside,  up  to  my  marriage,  thirteen  years  '.: 

Were,  each  day,  happy  as  the  day  was  long :  370 

This  may  have  made  the  change  too  terrible. 

I  know  that  when  Violante  told  me  first 

The  cavalier — she  meant  to  bring  next  morn, 

Whom  I  must  also  let  take,  kiss  my  hand — 

Would  be  at  San  Lorenzo  the  same  eve  375 

And  marry  me,  —  which  over,  we  should  go 

Home  both  of  us  without  him  as  before. 

And,  till  she  bade  speak,  I  must  hold  my  tongue. 

Such  being  the  correct  way  with  girl-brides. 

From  whom  one  word  would  make  a  father  blush,  —  380 

I  know,  I  say,  that  when  she  told  me  this, 

—  Well,  I  no  more  saw  sense  in  what  she  said 

Than  a  lamb  does  in  people  clipping  wool ; 

Only  lay  down  and  let  myself  be  clipped. 

And  when  next  day  the  cavalier  who  came  —  385 

(Tisbe  had  told  me  that  the  slim  young  man 

With  wings  at  head,  and  wings  at  feet,  and  sword 

24^      '  THE  RIISTG  AI^D  THE  BOOK. 

Threatening  a  monster,  in  our  tapestry, 

Would  eat  a  girl  else, — was  a  cavalier*) 

When  he  proved  Guido  Franceschini,  —  old  390 

And  nothing  like  so  tall  as  I  myself, 

Hook-nosed  and  yellow  in  a  bush  of  beard. 

Much  like  a  thing  I  saw  on  a  boy^s  wrist, 

He  called  an  owl  and  used  for  catching  birds,  — 

And  when  he  took  my  hand  and  made  a  smile  —  395 

Why,  the  uncomfortableness  of  it  all 

Seemed  hardly  more  important  in  the  case 

Than,  —  when  one  ffives  you,  say,  a  coin  to  spend,— 

Its  newness  or  its  oTdness ;  if  the  piece 

Weigh  properly  and  buy  you  what  you  wish,  400 

No  matter  whether  you  get  grime  or  glare! 

Men  take  the  coin,  return  you  grapes  and  figs. 

Here,  marriage  was  the  com,  a  dirty  piece 

Would  purchase  me  the  praise  of  those  I  loved : 

About  what  else  should  I  concern  myself?  405 

So,  hardly  knowing  what  a  husband  meant, 

I  supposed  this  or  any  man  would  serve. 

No  whit  the  worse  for  being  so  uncouth : 

For  I  was  ill  once  and  a  doctor  came 

With  a  great  ugly  hat,  no  plume  thereto,  410 

Black  jerkin  and  black  buckles  and  black  sword^ 

And  white  sharp  beard  over  the  ruflf  in  front. 

And  oh  so  lean,  so  sour-faced  and  austere !  — 

Who  felt  my  pulse,  made  me  put  out  my  tongue, 

Then  oped  a  phial,  dripped  a  drop  or  two  415 

Of  a  black  bitter  something,  —  I  was  cured! 

What  mattered  the  fierce  beard  or  the  grim  fece? 

It  was  the  physic  beautified  the  man, 

Master  Malpichi,* —  never  met  his  match 

In  Rome,  they  said,  —  so  ugly  all  the  same!  420 

However,  I  was  hurried  through  a  storm, 

Next  dark  eve  of  December's  deadest  day  — 

How  it  rained!  —  through  our  street  and  the  Lion's-mouth  * 

And  the  bit  of  Corso,  —  cloaked  round,  covered  close, 

I  was  like  something  strange  or  contraband, —  425 

Into  blank  San  Lorenzo,  up  the  aisle, 

My  mother  keeping  hold  of  me  so  tight, 

I  fancied  we  were  come  to  see  a  corpse 

y  Cavalier  :  Perseus  rescuing  Andromeda  is  probably  meant.    He  became  physician  to 

from  the  sea-monster.  Pope  Innocent  XII.  (1628-1694). 

^Master  Malhtchi :    there    was  a  great         *  LioiCs-mouth  :    the  name  of  a  street  in 

physician  named  "  Marcello  Malpighi "  who  Rome.     Via  di  Bocca  di  Lione, 


Before  the  altar  which  she  pulled  me  toward. 

There  we  found  waiting  an  unpleasant  priest  430 

Who  proved  the  brother,  not  our  parish  friend, 

But  one  with  mischief-making  mouth  and  eye, 

Paul,  whom  I  know  since  to  my  cost.    And  then 

I  heard  the  heavy  church-door  lock  out  help 

Behind  us :  for  the  customary  warmth,  435 

Two  tapers  shivered  on  the  siltar.    "  Quick  — 

Lose  no  time!  "  cried  the  priest.    And  straightway  down 

From  .  .  .  what 's  behind  the  altar  where  he  hid  — 

Hawk-nose  and  yellowness  and  bush  and  all. 

Stepped  Guido,  caught  my  hand,  and  there  was  I  440 

O^  the  chancel,  and  the  priest  had  opened  book. 

Read  here  and  there,  made  me  say  that  and  this, 

And  after,  told  me  I  was  now  a  wife. 

Honored  indeed,  since  Christ  thus  weds  the  Church, 

And  therefore  turned  he  water  into  wine,  445 

To  show  I  should  obey  my  spouse  like  Christ. 

Then  the  two  slipped  aside  and  talked  apart. 

And  1,  silent  and  scared,  got  down  again 

And  joined  my  mother  who  was  weeping  now. 

Nobody  seemed  to  mind  us  any  more,  450 

And  both  of  us  on  tiptoe  found  our  way 

To  the  door  which  was  unlocked  by  this,  and  wide. 

When  we  were  in  the  street,  the  rain  had  stopped. 

All  things  looked  better.     At  our  own  house-door, 

Violante  whispered  "  No  one  syllable  455 

To  Pietrol    Girl-brides  never  breathe  a  word!" 

"  —  Well  treated  to  a  wetting,  draggle-tails ! " 

Laughed  Pietro  as  he  opened  —  "Very  near 

You  made  me  brave  the  gutter's  roaring  sea 

To  carry  off  from  roost  old  dove  and  youne,  460 

Trussed  up  in  church,  the  cote,  by  me,  the  kite! 

What  do  these  priests  mean,  praying  folk  to  death 

On  stormy  afternoons,  with  Christmas  close 

To  wash  our  sins  off  nor  require  the  rain  ? " 

Violante  gave  my  hand  a  timely  squeeze,  465 

Madonna  saved  me  from  immodest  speech, 

I  kissed  him  and  was  quiet,  being  a  bride. 

When  I  saw  nothing  more,  the  next  three  weeks. 

Of  Guido  —  "Nor  the  Church  sees  Christ"  thought  I : 

"  Nothing  is  changed  however,  wine  is  wine  470 

And  water  only  water  in  our  house. 

Nor  did  I  see  that  ugly  doctor  since 

That  cure  of  the  illness :  just  as  I  was  cured, 

I  am  married, — neither  scarecrow  will  return." 

Three  weeks,  I  chuckled — "  How  would  Giulia  stare^    ..    AJJ^ 


And  Tecla  smile  and  Tisbe  laugh  outrieht. 

Were  it  not  impudent  for  brides  to  talk!"  — 

Until  one  morning,  as  I  sat  and  sang 

At  the  broidery-frame  alone  i'  the  chamber,  —  loud 

Voices,  two,  three  together,  sobbings  too,  480 

And  my  name,  "  Guido,"  "  Paolo,"  flung  like  stones 

From  each  to  the  other!     In  I  ran  to  see. 

There  stood  the  very  Guido  and  the  priest 

With  sly  face,  —  formal  but  nowise  afraid,  — 

While  Pietro  seemed  all  red  and  angry,  scarce  485 

Able  to  stutter  out  his  wrath  in  words ; 

And  this  it  was  that  made  my  mother  sob. 

As  he  reproached  her — "You  have  murdered  us, 

Me  and  yourself  and  this  our  child  beside! " 

Then  Guido  interposed  "  Murdered  or  not,  490 

Be  it  enough  your  child  is  now  my  wife! 

I  claim  and  come  to  take  her."    Paul  put  in, 

"  Consider  —  kinsman,  dare  I  term  you  so  ?  — 

What  is  the  good  of  your  sagacity 

Except  to  counsel  in  a  strait  like  this?  495 

I  guarantee  the  parties  man  and  wife 

Whether  you  like  or  loathe  it,  bless  or  ban. 

May  spilt  milk  be  put  back  within  the  bowl  — 

The  done  thing,  undone  ?    You,  it  is,  we  look 

For  counsel  to,  you  fitliest  will  advise!  -    500 

Since  milk,  though  spilt  and  spoilt,  does  marble  good, 

Better  we  down  on  knees  and  scrub  the  floor, 

Than  sigh,  *  the  waste  would  make  a  syllabub! ' 

Help  us  so  turn  disaster  to  account. 

So  predispose  the  groom,  he  needs  shall  grace  505 

The  bride  with  favor  from  the  very  first, 

Not  begin  marriage  an  embittered  man ! " 

He  smiled,  —  the  game  so  wholly  in  his  hands! 

While  fast  and  faster  sobbed  Violante — "Ay, 

All  of  us  murdered,  past  averting  now!  510 

0  my  sin,  O  my  secret! "  and  such  like. 

Then  I  began  to  half  surmise  the  truth ;    ^ 

Something  had  happened,  low,  mean,  underhand, 

False,  and  my  mother  was  to  blame,  and  I 

To  pity,  whom  all  spoke  of,  none  addressed :  515 

1  was  the  chattel  that  had  caused  a  crime. 

I  stood  mute,  —  those  who  tangled  must  untie 

The  embroilment.     Pietro  cried  "Withdraw,  my  child! 

She  is  not  helpful  to  the  sacrifice 

At  this  stage,  —  do  you  want  the  victim  by  520 

While  you  discuss  the  value  of  her  blood? 


For  her  sake,  I  consent  to  hear  you  talk : 
Go,  child,  and  pray  God  help  the  innocent!^ 


I  did  go  and  was  prayine  God,  when  came  U  '^    ^ 

Violante,  with  eyes  swoUen  and  red  enough,  525 

But  movement  on  her  mouth  for  make-believe 

Matters  were  somehow  getting  right  again. 

She  bade  me  sit  down  bv  her  side  and  hear. 

^  You  are  too  young  and  cannot  understand, 

Nor  did  your  father  understand  at  first.  530 

I  wished  to  benefit  all  three  of  us. 

And  when  he  failed  to  take  my  meaning, — why, 

I  tried  to  have  my  way  at  unaware  — 

Obtained  him  the  advantage  he  refiised. 

As  if  I  put  before  him  wholesome  food  535 

Instead  of  broken  victual,  —  he  finds  change 

r  the  viands,  never  cares  to  reason  why. 

But  falls  to  blaming  me,  would  fiine  the  plate 

From  window,  scandalize  the  neighborhood, 

Even  while  he  smacks  his  lips,  —  men^s  way,  my  child!       540 

But  either  you  have  prayed  him  unperverse 

Or  I  have  talked  him  back  into  his  wits : 

And  Paolo  was  a  help  in  time  of  need,  — 

Guido,  not  much  —  my  child,  the  way  of  men! 

A  priest  is  more  a  woman  than  a  man,  545 

And  Paul  did  wonders  to  persuade.     In  short, 

Yes,  he  was  wrong,  your  father  sees  and  says ; 

My  scheme  was  worth  attempting :  and  bears  fruit, 

Gives  you  a  husband  and  a  noble  name, 

A  palace  and  no  end  of  pleasant  things.  550 

What  do  you  care  about  a  handsome  youth  ? 

They  are  so  volatile,  and  tease  their  wives! 

This  is  the  kind  of  man  to  keep  the  house. 

We  lose  no  daughter,  — gain  a  son,  that's  all : 

For 't  is  arranged  we  never  separate,  555 

Nor  miss,  in  our  gray  time  of  life,  the  tints 

Of  you  that  color  eve  to  match  with  morn. 

In  good  or  ill,  we  share  and  share  alike. 

And  cast  our  lots  into  a  common  lap, 

And  all  three  die  together  as  we  lived!  560 

Only,  at  Arezzo,  —  that 's  a  Tuscan  town, 

Not  so  large  as  this  noisy  Rome,  no  doubt, 

But  older  far  and  finer  much,  say  folk,  — 

In  a  great  palace  where  you  will  be  queen, 

Know  the  Archbishop  and  the  Governor,  565 

And  we  see  homage  done  you  ere  we  die. 

Therefore,  be  good  and  pardon!  "  — "  Pardon  what? 


You  know  things,  I  am  very  ignorant : 

All  is  right  if  you  only  will  not  cry ! "  . ,  I 

And  so  an  end !    Because  a  blank  begins    ^    ^  570 

From  when,  at  the  word,  she  kissed  me  hard  and  hot. 

And  took  me  back  to  where  my  father  leaned 

Opposite  Guido  —  who  stood  eyeing  him, 

As  eyes  the  butcher  the  cast  panting  ox 

That  feels  his  fate  is  come,  nor  struggles  more,  —  575 

While  Paul  looked  archly  on,  pricked  brow  at  whiles 

With  the  pen-point  as  to  punish  triumph  there, — 

And  said  "  Count  Guido,  tafee  your  lawful  wife 

Until  death  part  you! "  ,  ^ 

All  since  is  one  blank,  ^  \) 
Over  and  ended ;  a  terrific  dream.  580 

It  is  the  good  of  dreams  —  so  soon  they  go! 
Wake  in  a  horror  of  heart-beats,  you  may  — 
Cry  "The  dread  thing  will  never  from  my  thoughts!" 
Still,  a  few  daylight  doses  of  plain  life, 

Cock-crow  and  sparrow-chirp,  or  bleat  and  bell  585 

Of  goats  that  trot  by,  tinkling,  to  be  milked ; 
And  when  you  rub  your  eyes  awake  and  wide. 
Where  is  the  harm  o' the  horror?    Gone!    So  here. 
I  know  I  wake, — but  from  what?    Blank,  I  say! 
This  is  the  note  of  evil :  for  good  lasts.  590 

Even  when  Don  Celestine  bade  "  Search  and  find! 
For  your  souPs  sake,  remember  what  is  past. 
The  better  to  forgive  it," — all  in  vain! 
What  was  fast  getting  indistinct  before. 
Vanished  outright.     By  special  grace  perhaps,  595 

Between  that  first  calm  and  this  last,  four  years 
Vanish,  —  one  quarter  of  my  life,  you  know. 
I  am  held  up,  amid  the  nothingness. 
By  one  or  two  truths  only  —  thence  I  hang. 
And  there  I  live,  —  the  rest  is  death  or  dream,  600 

All  but  those  points  of  my  support.     I  think 
Of  what  I  saw  at  Rome  once  in  the  Square 
O'  the  Spaniards,^  opposite  the  Spanish  House : 
There  was  a  foreigner  had  trained  a  goat, 
A  shuddering  white  woman  of  a  beast,  605 

To  climb  up,  stand  straight  on  a  pile  of  sticks 
Put  close,  which  gave  the  creature  room  enough : 
When  she  was  settled  there  he,  one  by  one. 
Took  away  all  the  sticks,  left  just  the  four 

^  Square  o*  the  Spaniards :    Piazza  di    Spagne  is  in    the  centre  of  the    strangers^ 
quarter  in  Rome. 

POMPIUA.  253 

Whereon  the  little  hoofe  did  really  rest,  6io 

There  she  kept  firm,  all  underneath  was  air. 

So,  what  I  hold  by,  are  my  prayer  to  God, 

My  hope,  that  came  in  answer  to  the  prayer, 

Some  hand  would  interpose  and  save  me  —  hand 

Which  proved  to  be  my  firiend^s  hand :  and, — blest  bliss, —      615 

That  fsmcy  which  began  so  £unt  at  first. 

That  thrill  of  dawn^s  sufiusion  through  my  dark. 

Which  I  perceive  was  promise  of  my  child. 

The  light  his  unborn  ace  sent  long  before,  — 

God^s  wav  of  breaking  the  good  news  to  flesh.  620 

That  is  all  left  now  of  those  four  bad  years. 

Don  Celestine  urged  "  But  remember  more! 

Other  men^s  faults  may  help  me  find  your  own. 

I  need  the  cruelty  exposed,  explained. 

Or  how  can  I  advise  you  to  forgive  ? "  625 

He  thought  I  could  not  properly  forgive 

Unless  I  ceased  forgetting,  —  which  is  true : 

For,  bringing  back  reluctantly  to  mind 

My  husband^  treatment  of  me,  —  by  a  light 

That 's  later  than  my  life-time,  I  review  630 

And  comprehend  much  and  imagine  more. 

And  have  but  little  to  forgive  at  last. 

For  now,  —  be  fair  and  say,  —  is  it  not  true 

He  was  ill-used  and  cheated  of  his  hope 

To  get  enriched  by  marriage?    Marriage  gave  635 

Me  and  no  money,  broke  the  compact  so : 

He  had  a  right  to  ask  me  on  those  terms, 

As  Pietro  and  Violante  to  declare 

They  would  not  give  me :  so  the  bargain  stood : 

They  broke  it,  and  he  felt  himself  aggrieved,  640 

Became  unkind  with  me  to  punish  them. 

They  said 't  was  he  began  deception  first. 

Nor,  in  one  point  whereto  he  pledged  himself. 

Kept  promise :  what  of  that,  suppose  it  were? 

Echoes  die  off,  scarcely  reverberate  645 

Forever,  —  why  should  ill  keep  echoing  ill, 

And  never  let  our  ears  have  done  with  noise  ? 

Then  my  poor  parents  took  the  violent  way 

To  thwart  him,  —  he  must  needs  retaliate,  —  wrong, 

Wrong,  and  all  wrong,  —  better  say,  all  blind!  650 

As  I  myself  was,  that  is  sure,  who  else 

Had  understood  the  mystery :  for  his  wife 

Was  bound  in  some  sort  to  help  somehow  there. 

It  seems  as  if  I  might  have  interposed, 

Blunted  the  edge  of  their  resentment  so,  655 

Since  he  vexed  me  because  they  first  vexed  him ; 

^  I  will  entreat  them  to  desist,  submit, 


Give  him  the  money  and  be  poor  in  peace, — 

Certainly  not  go  tell  the  world :  perhaps 

He  will  grow  quiet  with  his  gains."  .   \^ 

Yes,  say  ^  660 

Something  to  this  effect  and  you  do  well! 

But  then  you  have  to  see  first :  I  was  blind. 

That  is  the  fruit  of  all  such  wormy  ways, 

The  indirect,  the  unapproved  of  God : 

You  cannot  find  their  author^s  end  and  aim,  665 

Not  even  to  substitute  your  good  for  bad, 

Your  straight  for  the  irregular ;  you  stand 

Stupefied,  profitless,  as  cow  or  sheep 

That  miss  a  man^s  mind,  anger  him  just  twice 

By  trial  at  repairing  the  first  fault.  670 

Thus,  when  he  blamed  me,  "  You  are  a  coquette, 

A  lure-owl  posturing  to  attract  birds. 

You  look  love-lures  at  theatre  and  church. 

In  walk,  at  window!  " —  that,  I  knew,  was  false : 

But  why  he  charged  m^  falsely,  whither  sought  675 

To  drive  me  by  such  charge,  —  how  could  I  know? 

So,  unaware,  I  only  made  things  worse. 

I  tried  to  soothe  him  by  abjuring  walk. 

Window,  church ,  theatre,  for  good  and  all. 

As  if  he  had  been  in  earnest :  that,  you  know,  680 

Was  nothing  like  the  object  of  his  charge. 

Yes,  when  I  got  my  maid  to  supplicate 

The  priest,  whose  name  she  read  when  she  would  read 

Those  feigned  false  letters  I  was  forced  to  hear 

Though  I  could  read  no  word  of,  —  he  should  cease  685 

Writing, —  nay,  if  he  minded  prayer  of  mine. 

Cease  from  so  much  as  even  pass  the  street 

Whereon  our  house  looked,  —  in  my  ignorance 

I  was  just  thwarting  Guido's  true  intent ; 

Which  was,  to  bring  about  a  wicked  change  690 

Of  sport  to  earnest,  tempt  a  thoughtless  man 

To  write  indeed,  and  pass  the  house,  and  more, 

Till  both  of  us  were  taken  in  a  crime. 

He  ought  not  to  have  wished  me  thus  act  lies, 

Simulate  folly :  but,  —  wrong  or  right,  the  wish, —  695 

I  failed  to  apprehend  its  drift.     How  plain 

It  follows,  —  if  I  fell  into  such  fault. 

He  also  may  have  overreached  the  mark. 

Made  mistake,  by  perversity  of  brain, 

r  the  whole  sad  strange  plot,  the  grotesque  intrigue  700 

To  make  me  and  my  friend  unself  ourselves. 

Be  other  man  and  woman  than  we  were! 

Think  it  out,  you  who  have  the  time!  for  me, — 

POMPIUA,  255 

I  cannot  say  less ;  more  I  will  not  say. 

Leave  it  to  God  to  cover  and  undo!  705 

Only,  my  dulness  should  not  prove  too  much! 

—  Not  prove  that  in  a  certain  other  point 
Wherein  my  husband  blamed  me, — and  you  blame. 
If  I  interpret  smiles  and  shakes  of  head,  — 

I  was  diill  too.     Oh,  if  I  dared  but  speak!  710 

Must  I  speak?    I  am  blamed  that  I  forwent 
A  way  to  make  my  husband^s  favor  come. 
That  is  true :  I  was  firm,  withstood,  refused  .  .  . 

—  Women  as  you  are,  how  can  I  find  the  words? 

I  felt  there  was  just  one  thing  Guido  claimed  715 

I  had  no  right  to  give  nor  he  to  take ; 
We  being  in  estrangement,  soul  from  soul : 
Till,  when  I  sought  help,  the  Archbishop  smiled. 
Inquiring  into  privacies  of  life, 

—  Said  1  was  blameable  —  (he  stands  for  God)  720 
Nowise  entitled  to  exemption  there. 

Then  I  obeyed, — as  surely  had  obeyed 

Were  the  injunction  "  Since  your  husband  bids, 

Swallow  the  burning  coal  he  proffers  you! " 

But  I  did  wrong,  and  he  gave  wrong  advice  725 

Though  he  were  thrice  Archbishop,  —  that,  I  know!  — 

Now  I  have  got  to  die  and  see  things  clear. 

Remember  I  was  barely  twelve  years  old  — 

A  child  at  marriage :  1  was  let  aJone 

For  weeks,  I  told  you,  lived  my  child-life  still  730 

Even  at  Arezzo,  when  I  woke  and  found 

First  .  .  .  but  I  need  not  think  of  that  again  — 

Over  and  ended!    Try  and  take  the  sense 

Of  what  I  signify,  if  it  must  be  so. 

After  the  first,  my  husband,  for  hate's  sake,  735 

Said  one  eve,  when  the  simpler  cruelty 

Seemed  somewhat  dull  at  edge  and  fit  to  bear, 

"  We  have  been  man  and  wife  six  months  almost : 

How  long  is  this  your  comedy  to  last  ? 

Go  this  night  to  my  chamber,  not  your  own ! "  740 

At  which  word,  I  did  rush  —  most  true  the  charge  — 

And  gain  the  Archbishop's  house  — he  stands  for  God  — 

And  rail  upon  my  knees  and  clasp  his  feet, 

Praying  him  hinder  what  my  estranged  soul 

Refused  to  bear,  though  patient  of  the  rest :  745 

"  Place  me  within  a  convent,''  I  implored  — 

"  Let  me  henceforward  lead  the  virgin  life 

You  praise  in  Her  you  bid  me  imitate ! " 

What  did  he  answer?    "  Folly  of  ignorance! 

Know,  daughter,  circumstances  make  or  mar  750 

Virginity, — 't  is  virtue  or  't  is  vice. 


That  which  was  glory  in  the  Mother  of  God 

Had  been,  for  instance,  damnable  in  Eve 

Created  to  be  mother  of  mankind. 

Had  Eve,  in  answer  to  her  Maker^s  speech  755 

'  Be  fhiithil,  multiply,  replenish  earth  ^  — 

Pouted  ^  But  I  choose  rather  to  remain 

Single,' — why,  she  had  spared  herself  forthwith 

Further  probation  by  the  apple  and  snake, 

Been  pushed  straight  out  of  Paradise!    For  see —  760 

If  motherhood  be  qualified  impure, 

I  catch  you  making  God  command  Eve  sin! 

—  A  blasphemy  so  like  these  Molinists', 
I  must  suspect  you  dip  into  their  books.'' 

Then  he  pursued  " 'T  was  in  your  covenant!  '*  765 

No!    There  my  husband  never  used  deceit. 

He  never  did  by  speech  nor  act  imply 

"  Because  of  our  souls'  yearning  that  we  meet 

And  mix  in  soul  through  flesh,  which  yours  and  mine 

Wear  and  impress,  and  make  their  visible  selves,  770 

—  All  which  means,  for  the  love  of  you  and  me, 
Let  us  become  one  flesh,  being  one  soul! " 

He  only  stipulated  for  the  wedth ; 

Honest  so  far.    But  when  he  spoke  as  plain  — 

Dreadfully  honest  also  —  "  Since  our  souls  775 

Stand  each  from  each,  a  whole  world's  width  between, 

Give  me  the  fleshly  vesture  I  can  reach 

And  rend  and  leave  just  fit  for  hell  to  burn ! "  — 

Why,  in  God's  name,  for  Guido's  soul's  own  sake 

Imperilled  by  polluting  mine, — I  say,  780 

I  did  resist ;  would  I  had  overcome! 

My  heart  died  out  at  the  Archbishop's  smile ;       v   c 

—  It  seemed  so  stale  and  worn  a  way  o'  the  world, 
As  though 't  were  nature  frowning  —  "  Here  b  Spring, 

The  sun  shines  as  he  shone  at  Adam's  fall,  785 

The  earth  requires  that  warmth  reach  everywhere : 

What,  must  your  patch  of  snow  be  saved  forsooth 

Because  you  rather  fancy  snow  than  flowers  ?  " 

Something  in  this  style  he  began  with  me. 

Last  he  said,  savagely  for  a  good  man,  790 

"  This  explains  why  you  call  your  husband  harsh. 

Harsh  to  you,  harsh  to  whom  you  love.    God's  Bread! 

The  poor  Count  has  to  manage  a  mere  child 

Whose  parents  leave  untaught  the  simplest  things 

Their  duty  was  and  privilege  to  teach,  —  795 

Goodwives'  instruction,  gossips'  lore :  they  laugh 

And  leave  the  Count  the  task, — or  leave  it  me! " 


Then  I  resolved  to  tell  a  frightful  thmg. 

<M  am  not  i^porant, — know  what  I  say. 

Declaring  this  b  soup;ht  for  hate,  not  love.  800 

Sir,  vou  may  hear  things  like  almighty  God. 

I  tell  you  that  my  housemate,  yes — the  priest 

My  husband^s  brother,  Canon  Girolamo — 

Has  taught  me  what  depraved  and  misnamed  love 

Means,  and  what  outward  signs  denote  the  sin,  805 

For  he  solicits  me  and  says  he  loves. 

The  idle  young  priest  with  nought  else  to  do. 

Mjr  husband  sees  this,  knows  this,  and  lets  be. 

Is  it  your  counsel  I  bear  this  beside? " 

^  —  More  scandal,  and  against  a  priest  this  time!  810 

What,  His  the  Canon  now?^' — less  snappishly — 

**  Rise  up,  my  child,  for  such  a  child  you  are, 

The  rod  were  too  advanced  a  punishment! 

Let  ^s  try  the  honeyed  cake.    A  parable ! 

*  Without  a  parable  spake  He  not  to  them.'  815 
There  was  a  ripe  round  long  black  toothsome  fruit. 

Even  a  flower-fig,  the  prime  boast  of  May : 

And,  to  the  tree,  said  .  .  .  either  the  spirit  o'  the  Agy 

Or,  if  we  bring  in  men,  the  gardener. 

Archbishop  01  the  orchard  —  had  I  time  820 

To  try  o'  the  two  which  fits  in  best :  indeed 

It  might  be  the  Creator's  self,  but  then 

The  tree  should  bear  an  apple,  I  suppose,  — 

Well,  anyhow,  one  with  authority  said 

*Ripe  fig,  burst  skin,  regale  the  fig-pecker —  825 

The  bird  whereof  thou  art  a  perquisite! ' 

*  Nay,'  with  a  flounce,  replied  the  restif  fig, 

*  I  much  prefer  to  keep  my  pulp  myself: 
He  may  go  break£eistless  and  dinnerless, 

Supperless  of  one  crimson  seed,  for  me! '  830 

So,  back  she  flopped  into  her  bunch  of  leaves. 

He  flew  off,  left  her, — did  the  natural  lord,  — 

And  lo,  three  hundred  thousand  bees  and  wasps 

Found  her  out,  feasted  on  her  to  the  shuck : 

Such  gain  the  fig's  that  gave  its  bird  no  bite !  835 

The  moral, — fools  elude  their  proper  lot, 

Tempt  other  fools,  get  ruined  all  alike. 

Therefore  go  home,  embrace  your  husband  quick! 

Which  if  his  Canon  brother  chance  to  see. 

He  will  the  sooner  back  to  book  again."  840 

So,  home  I  did  go ;  so,  the  worst  befell : 
So,  I  had  proof  the  Archbishop  was  just  man. 
And  hardly  that,  and  certainly  no  more. 
For,  miserable  consequence  to  me, 


My  husband^s  hatred  waxed  nor  waned  at  all,  845 

His  brother's  boldness  grew  eflfrontery  soon, 

And  my  last  stay  and  comfort  in  myself 

Was  forced  from  me :  henceforth  I  looked  to  God 

Only,  nor  cared  my  desecrated  soul 

Should  have  fair  walls,  gay  windows  for  the  world.  850 

God's  glimmer,  that  came  through  the  ruin-top. 

Was  witness  why  all  lights  were  quenched  inside : 

Henceforth  I  asked  God  counsel,  not  mankind. 

So,  when  I  made  the  effort,  freed  myself,    n6 

They  said — "  No*  care  to  save  appearance  here!  855 

How  cynic,  —  when,  how  wanton,  were  enough!" 

—  Adding,  it  all  came  of  my  mother's  life  — 

My  own  real  mother,  whom  I  never  knew. 

Who  did  wrong  (if  she  needs  must  have  done  wrong) 

Through  being  all  her  life,  not  my  four  years,  860 

At  mercy  of  the  hateful :  every  beast 

O'  the  field  was  wont  to  break  that  fountain-fence, 

Trample  the  silver  into  mud  so  murk 

Heaven  could  not  find  itself  reflected  there. 

Now  they  cry  "  Out  on  her,  who,  plashy  pool,  865 

Bequeathed  turbidity  and  bitterness 

To  the  daughter-stream  where  Guido  dipt  and  drank!" 

Well,  since  she  had  to  bear  this  brand  —  let  me! 

The  rather  do  I  understand  her  now, 

From  my  experience  of  what  hate  calls  love,  —  870 

Much  love  might  be  in  what  their  love  called  hate. 

If  she  sold  .  .  .  what  they  call,  sold  ...  me  her  child — 

I  shall  believe  she  hoped  in  her  poor  heart 

That  I  at  least  might  try  be  good  and  pure, 

Begin  to  live  untempted,  not  go  doomed  875 

And  done  with  ere  once  found  in  fault,  as  she. 

Oh  and,  my  mother,  it  all  came  to  this  ? 

Why  should  I  trust  those  that  speak  ill  of  you. 

When  I  mistrust  who  speaks  even  well  of  them  ? 

Why,  since  all  bound  to  do  me  good,  did  harm,  880 

May  not  you,  seeming  as  you  harmed  me  most. 

Have  meant  to  do  most  good  —  and  feed  your  child 

From  bramble-bush,  whom  not  one  orchard-tree 

But  drew  bough  back  from,  nor  let  one  fruit  fall? 

This  it  was  for  you  sacrificed  your  babe  ?  885 

Gained  just  this,  giving  your  heart's  hope  away 

As  I  might  give  mine,  loving  it  as  you. 

If  .  .  .  but  that  never  could  be  asked  of  me! 

There,  enough!     I  have  my  support  again. 


POMPIUA.  259 

Afi^dn  the  knowledge  that  my  babe  was,  is,  890 

Will  be  mine  only.    Him,  by  death,  I  give 

Outright  to  God,  without  a  further  care,  — 

But  not  to  any  parent  in  the  world,  — 

So  to  be  safe :  why  is  it  we  repine  ? 

What  guardianship  were  safer  could  we  choose?  895 

All  human  plans  and  projects  come  to  nought : 

My  life,  and  what  I  know  of  other  lives. 

Prove  that :  no  plan  nor  project!  God  shall  care! 

And  now  you  are  not  tired?    How  patient  then  ' 

All  of  jou,  —  Oh  yes,  patient  this  long  while  900 

Listenmg,  and  understanding,  I  am  sure! 

Four  days  ago,  when  I  was  sound  and  well 

And  like  to  Hve,  no  one  would  understand. 

People  were  kind,  but  smiled  <<  And  what  of  him. 

Your  friend,  whose  tonsure  the  rich  dark-brown  hides  ?       905 

There,  there! — your  lover,  do  we  dream  he  was? 

A  priest  too — never  were  such  naughtiness! 

Still,  he  thinks  many  a  long  think,  never  fear, 

After  the  shy  pale  lady, — lay  so  light 

For  a  moment  in  his  arms,  the  lucky  one!  ^^  910 

And  so  on :  wherefore  should  I  blame  you  much  ?    • 

So  we  are  made,  such  difference  in  minds, 

Such  difference  too  in  eyes  that  see  the  minds  ! 

That  man,  you  misinterpret  and  misprise  — 

Theg^lory  of  his  nature,  I  had  thought,  915 

Shot  itself  out  in  white  li|;ht,  blazed  the  truth 

Through  every  atom  of  his  act  with  me : 

Yet  where  I  point  you,  through  the  crystal  shrine, 

Purity  in  quintessence,  one  dew-drop. 

You  all  descry  a  spider  in  the  midst.  920 

One  says  "  The  head  of  it  is  plain  to  see," 

And  one,  "  They  are  the  feet  by  which  I  judge," 

All  say,  "Those  films  were  spun  by  nothmg  else."      f 

Then,  I  must  lay  my  babe  away  with  God,  ^ 

Nor  think  of  him  again,  for  gratitude.  925 

Yes,  my  last  breath  shall  wholly  spend  itself 

In  one  attempt  more  to  disperse  the  stain. 

The  mist  from  other  breath  fond  mouths  have  made, 

About  a  lustrous  and  pellucid  soul : 

So  that,  when  I  am  gone  but  sorrow  stays,  930 

And  people  need  assurance  in  their  doubt 

If  God  yet  have  a  servant,  man  a  friend, 

The  weak  a  saviour  and  the  vile  a  foe,  — 

Let  him  be  present,  by  the  name  invoked; 

Giuseppe-Maria  Caponsacchi! 

26o  THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK.  ^ 

There,  ^  935 

Strength  comes  already  with  the  utterance! 
I  will  remember  once  more  for  his  sake 
The  sorrow :  for  he  lives  and  is  belied. 
Could  he  be  here,  how  he  would  speak  for  me! 

I  had  been  miserable  three  drear  ^ears  940 

In  that  dread  palace  and  lay  passive  now, 

When  I  first  learned  there  could  be  such  a  man. 

Thus  it  fell :  I  was  at  a  public  play, 

In  the  last  days  of  Carnival  last  March, 

Brought  there  I  knew  not  why,  but  now  know  well.  945 

My  husband  put  me  where  I  sat,  in  front ; 

Then  crouched  down,  breathed  cold  through  me  from  behind, 

Stationed  i^  the  shadow,  —  none  in  front  could  see,  — 

I,  it  was,  faced  the  stranger-throng  beneath. 

The  crowd  with  upturned  faces,  eyes  one  stare,  950 

Voices  one  buzz.    I  looked  but  to  the  stage, 

Whereon  two  lovers  sang  and  interchanged 

"  True  life  is  only  love,  love  only  bliss : 

I  love  thee  —  thee  I  love! "  then  they  embraced. 

I  looked  thence  to  the  ceiling  and  the  walls,  —  955 

Over  the  crowd,  those  voices  and  those  eyes, — 

My  thoughts  went  through  the  roof  and  out,  to  Rome 

On  wings  of  music,  waft  of  measured  words,  — 

Set  me  down  there,  a  happy  child  again 

Sure  that  to-morrow  would  be  festa-day,  960 

Hearing  my  parents  praise  past  festas  more. 

And  seeing  they  were  old  if  I  was  young. 

Yet  wondering  why  they  still  would  end  discourse 

With  "  We  must  soon  go,  you  abide  your  time. 

And, — might  we  haply  see  the  proper  friend  965 

Throw  his  arm  over  you  and  make  you  safe!" 

71  \\ 
Sudden  I  saw  him ;  into  my  lap  there  fell  ^  ' 
A  foolish  twist  of  comfits,  broke  my  dream 
And  brought  me  from  the  air  and  laid  me  low. 
As  ruined  as  the  soaring  bee  that 's  reached  970 

(So  Pietro  told  me  at  the  Villa  once) 
By  the  dust-handful.     There  the  comfits  lay: 
I  looked  to  see  who  flung  them,  and  I  faced 
This  Caponsacchi,  looking  up  in  turn. 

Ere  I  could  reason  out  why,  I  felt  sure,  975 

Whoever  flung  them,  his  was  not  the  hand,  — 
Up  rose  tl)e  round  face  and  good-natured  grin 
Of  one  who,  in  effect,  had  played  the  prank. 
From  covert  close  beside  the  earnest  face,  — 
Fat  waggish  Conti,  friend  of  all  the  world.  980 


He  was  my  husband^s  cousin,  privileged 
To  throw  the  thing :  the  other,  silent,  grave^ 
Solemn  almost,  saw  me,  as  I  saw  him. 

There  is  a  psalm  Don  Celestine  recites,  '!^ 

** Had  I  a  dove's  wings,  how  !  fain  would  flee! "  985 

The  psalm  runs  not ''  I  hope,  I  pray  for  wings,^  — 

Not ''  If  wings  fall  from  heaven,  I  fix  them  fa&Xj^  — 

Simply  "  How  good  it  were  to  fly  and  rest. 

Have  hope  now,  and  one  day  expect  content! 

How  well  to  do  what  I  shall  never  do!  **  990 

So  I  said  ^  Had  there  been  a  man  like  that, 

To  lift  me  with  his  strength  out  of  all  strife 

Into  the  calm,  how  I  could  fly  and  rest! 

I  have  a  keeper  in  the  garden  here 

Whose  sole  employment  is  to  strike  me  low  995 

if  ever  I,  for  solace,  seek  the  sun. 

Life  means  with  me  successful  feigning  death, 

Lying  stone-like,  eluding  notice  so, 

Foregoing  here  the  turf  and  there  the  sky. 

Suppose  that  man  had  been  instead  of  this!  ^  looo 

Presently  Conti  laughed  into  my  ear, 

—  Had  tripped  up  to  the  raised  place  where  I  sat  — 

^^  Cousin,  I  flung  them  brutishly  and  hard ! 

Because  you  must  be  hurt,  to  look  austere 

As  Capotisacchi  yonder,  my  tall  friend  1005 

A-gazmg  now.    Ah,  Guido,  you  so  close? 

Keep  on  your  knees,  do !    Beg  her  to  forgive! 

My  cornet  ^  battered  like  a  cannon-ball. 

Good-bye,  Pm  gone!"  —  nor  waited  the  reply. 

That  night  at  supper,  out  my  husband  broke,  loio 

"  Why  was  that  throwing,  that  buffoonery  ? 

Do  you  think  I  am  your  dupe  ?    What  man  would  dare 

Throw  comfits  in  a  stranger  lady's  lap? 

'T  was  knowledge  of  you  bred  such  insolence 

In  Caponsacchi ;  he  dared  shoot  the  bolt,  1015 

Using  that  Conti  for  his  stalking-horse. 

How  could  you  see  him  this  once  and  no  more, 

When  he  is  always  haunting  hereabout 

At  the  street-corner  or  the  palace-side. 

Publishing  my  shame  and  your  impudence?  1020 

You  are  a  wanton, —  I  a  dupe,  you  think? 

O  Christ,  what  hinders  that  I  kill  her  quick  ?  " 

Whereat  he  drew  his  sword  and  feigned  a  thrust. 

^  Comet:  a  piece  ofpttper  twisted  into  a  conkal  shape  (suchasiscommonljrusedbygrocets) 


All  this,  now,  —  being  not  so  strange  to  me,    \  ' 
Used  to  such  misconception  day  bv  day  1025 

And  broken-in  to  bear,  —  I  bore,  this  time, 
More  quietly  than  woman  should  perhaps ; 
Repeated  the  mere  truth  and  held  my  tongue. 

Then  he  said,  <'  Since  you  play  the  ignorant, 

I  shall  instruct  you.    This  amour,  —  commenced  1030 

Or  finished  or  midway  in  act,  all  ^s  one,  — 

'T  is  the  town-talk ;  so  my  revenge  shall  be. 

Does  he  presume  because  he  is  a  priest  ? 

I  warn  him  that  the  sword  I  wear  shall  pink 

His' lily-scented  cassock  through  and  through,  1035 

Next  time  I  catch  him  underneath  your  eaves!'' 

But  he  had  threatened  with  the  sword  so  oft 

And,  after  all,  not  kept  his  promise.     All 

I  said  was  '^  Let  God  save  the  innocent! 

Moreover  death  is  £»*  from  a  bad  fate.  1040 

I  shall  go  pray  for  you  and  me,  not  him ; 

And  then  I  look  to  sleep,  come  death  or,  worse, 

Life."    So,  1  slept. 

r  \ 

There  may  have  elapsed  a  week,  ^  ^  ^ 
When  Margherita,  —  called  my  waiting-maid, 
Whom  it  is  said  my  husband  found  too  fair —  1045 

Who  stood  and  heard  the  charge  and  the  reply. 
Who  never  once  would  let  the  matter  rest 
From  that  night  forward,  but  rang  changes  still 
On  this  the  thrust  and  that  the  shame,  and  how 
Good  cause  for  jealousy  cures  jealous  fools,  1050 

And  what  a  paragon  was  this  same  priest 
She  talked  about  until  I  stopped  my  ears,  — 
She  said,  "  A  week  is  gone ;  you  comb  your  hair. 
Then  go  mope  in  a  corner,  cheek  on  psdm. 
Till  night  comes  round  again,  —  so,  waste  a  week  1055 

As  if  your  husband  menaced  you  in  sport. 
Have  not  I  some  acquaintance  with  his  tricks? 
Oh  no,  he  did  not  stab  the  serving-man 
Who  made  and  sang  the  rhymes  about  me  once! 
For  why  ?    They  sent  him  to  the  wars  next  day.  1060 

Nor  poisoned  he  the  foreigner,  my  friend 
Who  wagered  on  the  whiteness  of  my  breast,  — 
The  swarth  skins  of  our  city  in  dispute : 
For,  though  he  paid  me  proper  compliment. 
The  Count  well  knew  he  was  besotted  with  1065 

Somebody  else,  a  skin  as  black  as  ink, 
(As  all  the  town  knew  save  my  foreigner) 
He  found  and  wedded  presently,  —  *  Why  need 

POMPIUA.  263 

Better  revenge?*  —  the  Count  asked.    But  what  *s  here? 

A  priest  that  does  not  fight,  and  cannot  wed^  1070 

Yet  must  be  dealt  with !    If  the  Count  took  fire 

For  the  poor  pastime  of  a  minute,  —  me  — 

What  were  the  conflagration  for  yourself, 

Countess  and  lady-wile  and  all  the  rest? 

The  priest  will  perish ;  you  will  grieve  too  late :  1075 

So  shall  the  cit^-ladies^  handsomest 

Frankest  and  liberalest  gentleman 

Die  for  you,  to  appease  a  scurvy  dog 

Hanging *s  too  good  for.    Is  there  no  escape? 

Were  it  not  simple  Christian  charity  1080 

To  warn  the  priest  be  on  his  guard,  —  save  him 

Assured  death,  save  yourself  from  causing  it  ? 

I  meet  him  in  the  street.    Give  me  a  glove, 

A  ring  to  show  for  token!    Mum^s  the  word!*' 

I  answered  **  If  you  were,  as  styled,  my  maid,  1085 

I  would  command  you :  as  you  are,  you  say, 

My  husband^s  intimate,  —  assist  his  wife 

Who  can  do  nothing  but  entreat  *  Be  still ! ' 

Even  if  you  speak  truth  and  a  crime  is  planned. 

Leave  help  to  God  as  I  am  forced  to  do!  1090 

There  is  no  other  help,  or  we  should  craze, 

Seeing  such  evil  with  no  human  cure. 

Reflect  that  God,  who  makes  the  storm  desist, 

Can  make  an  angry  violent  heart  subside. 

Why  should  we  venture  teach  Him  governance?  1095 

Never  address  me  on  this  subject  more!  ** 

Next  night  she  said  <<  But  I  went,  all  the  same, ' 

— Ay,  saw  your  Caponsacchi  in  his  house, 

And  come  back  stuffed  with  news  I  must  outpour. 

I  told  him  <Sir,  my  mistress  is  a  stone :  1 100 

Why  should  you  harm  her  for  no  good  you  get? 

For  you  do  harm  her — prowl  about  our  place 

With  the  Count  never  distant  half  the  street. 

Lurking  at  every  corner,  would  you  look! 

'T  is  certain  she  has  witched  you  with  a  spell.  1105 

Are  there  not  other  beauties  at  your  beck  ? 

We  all  know.  Donna  This  and  Monna  That 

Die  for  a  glance  of  yours,  yet  here  you  gaze! 

Go  make  them  grateful,  leave  the  stone  its  coldl' 

And  he  —  oh,  he  turned  first  white  and  then  red,  Hit 

And  then  —  *  To  her  behest  I  bow  myself. 

Whom  I  love  with  my  body  and  my  soul : 

Only  a  word  i'  the  bowing!    See,  I  write 

One  little  word,  no  harm  to  see  or  hear! 


Then,  fear  no  further!  *    This  is  what  he  wrote.  1 1 15 

I  know  you  cannot  read,  —  therefore,  let  me! 
'My  idol!'''  ... 

But  I  took  it  from  her  hand  f ' 
And  tore  it  into  shreds.     "  Why,  join  the  rest 
Who  harm  me?    Have  I  ever  done  you  wrong? 
People  have  told  me 't  is  you  wrong  myself:  1 120 

Let  it  suffice  I  either  feel  no  wrong 
Or  else  forgive  it,  —  yet  you  turn  my  foe! 
The  others  hunt  me  and  you  throw  a  noose!  ^ 

She  muttered  "  Have  your  wilful  way! "    I  slept. 

Whereupon  .  .  .  no,  I  leave  my  husband  out!  11 25 

It  is  not  to  do  him  more  hurt,  I  speak. 

Let  it  suffice,  when  misery  was  most, 

One  day,  I  swooned  and  got  a  respite  so. 

She  stooped  as  I  was  slowly  coming  to, 

This  Margherita,  ever  on  my  trace,  1130 

And  whispered  —  "  Caponsacchi! " 

If  I  drowned,    -,  \^- 
But  woke  afloat  i'  the  wave  with  upturned  eyes. 
And  found  their  first  sight  was  a  star!     I  turned — 
For  the  first  time,  I  let  her  have  her  will. 
Heard  passively,  —  "  The  imposthume  at  such  head,  1 135 

One  touch,  one  lancet-puncture  would  relieve, — 
And  still  no  glance  the  good  physician's  way 
Who  rids  you  of  the  torment  in  a  trice ! 
Still  he  writes  letters  you  refuse  to  hear. 
He  may  prevent  your  husband,  kill  himself,  1 140 

So  desperate  and  all  fordone  is  he ! 
Just  hear  the  pretty  verse  he  made  to-day! 
A  sonnet  from  Mirtillo.*    '  Peerless  fair  .  .  .• 
All  poetry  is  difficult  to  read, 

—  The  sense  of  it  is,  anyhow,  he  seeks  1145 

Leave  to  contrive  you  an  escape  from  hell. 
And  for  that  purpose  asks  an  interview. 
I  can  write,  I  can  grant  it  in  your  name. 
Or,  what  is  better,  lead  you  to  his  house. 
Your  husband  dashes  you  against  the  stones ;  11 50 

This  man  would  place  each  fragment  in  a  shrine : 
You  hate  him,  love  your  husband ! " 

I  returned 

^  Mirtillo  :  evidently  used  as  the  name  of  a  pastoral  lover  who  has  written  a  sonnet  to 
his  love. 

POMPIUA.  265 

"It  is  not  true  I  love  my  husband,  — no, 

Nor  hate  this  man.    I  listen  while  you  speak, 

—  Assured  that  what  you  say  is  false,  the  same :  11 55 

Much  as  when  once,  to  me  a  little  child, 

A  rough  gaunt  man  in  rags,  with  eyes  on  fire, 

A  crowd  of  boys  and  idlers  at  his  heels, 

Rushed  as  I  crossed  the  Square,  and  held  my  head 

In  his  two  hands,  ^  Here ^s  she  will  let  me  speak!  1 160 

You  little  girl,  whose  eyes  do  good  to  mine, 

I  am  the  Pope,  am  Sextus,  now  the  Sixth ; 

And  that  Twelfth  Innocent,  proclaimed  to-day, 

Is  Lucifer  disguised  in  human  flesh ! 

The  angels  met  in  conclave,  crowned  meP  —  thus  1 165 

He  gibbered  and  I  Ibtened ;  but  I  knew 

All  was  delusion,  ere  folk  interposed 

<  Unfasten  him,  the  maniac!  ^    Thus  I  know 

All  your  report  of  Caponsacchi  false. 

Folly  or  dreaming;  I  have  seen  so  much  11 70 

By  Uiat  adventure  at  the  spectacle, 

The  face  I  fronted  that  one  first,  last  time : 

He  would  belie  it  by  such  words  and  thoughts. 

Therefore  while  you  profess  to  show  him  me, 

I  ever  see  his  own  face.    Get  you  gone! "  1175 

"  —  That  will  I,  nor  once  open  mouth  again,  — 

No,  by  Saint  Joseph  and  the  Holy  Ghost! 

On  vour  head  be  the  damage,  so  adieu !  ^^ 

And  so  more  days,  more  deeds  I  must  forget, 

Till  .  .  .  what  a  strange  thing  now  is  to  declare!  11 80 

Since  I  say  anything,  say  all  if  true ! 

And  how  my  life  seems  lengthened  as  to  serve! 

It  may  be  idle  or  inopportune, 

But,  true  ?  —  why,  what  was  all  I  said  but  truth. 

Even  when  I  found  that  such  as  are  untrue  11 85 

Could  only  take  the  truth  in  through  a  lie? 

Now —  I  am  speaking  truth  to  the  Truth's  self: 

God  will  lend  credit  to  my  words  this  time. 

It  had  got  half  through  April,  I  arose 

One  vivid  daybreak, — who  had  gone  to  bed  1 190 

In  the  old  way  my  wont  those  last  three  years. 

Careless  until,  the  cup  drained,  I  should  die. 

The  last  sound  in  my  ear,  the  over-night. 

Had  been  a  something  let  drop  on  the  sly 

In  prattle  by  Margherita,  "  Soon  enough  1195 

Gaieties  end,  now  Easter 's  past :  a  week. 

And  the  Archbishop  gets  him  back  to  Rome,  — 

Every  one  leaves  the  town  for  Romci  this  Sprin^^ — 


Even  Caponsacchi,  out  of  heart  and  hope, 

Resigns  himself  and  follows  with  the  flodc.^  laoo 

I  heard  this  drop  and  drop  like  rain  outside 

Fast-falling  through  the  darkness  while  she  spoke : 

So  had  I  heard  with  like  indifference, 

"  And  Michael's  pair  of  wings  will  arrive  first 

At  Rome,  to  introduce  the  company,  1205 

And  bear  him  from  our  picture  where  he  fights 

Satan,  —  expect  to  have  that  dragon  loose 

And  never  a  defender! "  —  my  sole  thought 

Being  still,  as  night  came,  ^'  Done,  another  day! 

How  good  to  sleep  and  so  get  nearer  death! "  —  1210 

When,  what,  first  thing  at  daybreak,  pierced  the  sleep 

With  a  summons  to  me  ?    Up  I  sprang  alive. 

Light  in  me,  light  without  me,  everywhere 

Change!    A  broad  yellow  sunbeam  was  let  fell 

From  heaven  to  earth,  — a  sudden  drawbridge  lay,  1215 

Along  which  marched  a  myriad  merry  motes. 

Mocking  the  flies  that  crossed  them  and  recrossed 

In  rival  dance,  companions  new-born  too. 

On  the  house-eaves,  a  dripping  shag  of  weed 

Shook  diamonds  on  each  dull  gray  lattice-square,  1220 

As  first  one,  then  another  bird  leapt  by. 

And  light  was  off,  and  lo  was  back  again, 

Always  with  one  voice,  —  where  are  two  such  joys?  — 

The  blessed  building-sparrow!    I  stepped  forth, 

Stood  on  the  terrace,  —  o'er  the  roofs,  such  sky!  1225 

My  heart  sang,  "  I  too  am  to  go  away, 

I  too  have  something  I  must  care  about. 

Carry  away  with  me  to  Rome,  to  Rome! 

The  bird  brings  hither  sticks  and  hairs  and  wool, 

And  nowhere  else  i'  the  world ;  what  fly  breaks  rank,        1230 

Falls  out  of  the  procession  that  befits. 

From  window  here  to  window  there,  with  all 

The  world  to  choose,  —  so  well  he  knows  his  course? 

I  have  my  purpose  and  my  motive  too. 

My  marcn  to  Rome,  like  any  bird  or  fly!  1235 

Had  I  been  dead!    How  right  to  be  alive ! 

Last  night  I  almost  prayed  for  leave  to  die. 

Wished  Guido  all  his  pleasure  with  the  sword 

Or  the  poison,  —  poison,  sword,  was  but  a  trick, 

Harmless,  may  God  forgive  him  the  poor  jest!  1240 

My  life  is  charmed,  will  last  till  I  reach  Rome! 

Yesterday,  but  for  the  sin,  —  ah,  nameless  be 

The  deed  I  could  have  dared  against  myself! 

Now — see  if  I  will  touch  an  unripe  fruit, 

And  risk  the  health  I  want  to  have  and  use!  1245 

Not  to  live,  now,  would  be  the  wickedness,  — 


For  life  means  to  make  haste  and  go  to  Rome 
And  leave  Arezzo,  leave  all  woes  at  once!  ^ 

Nowy  understand  here,  bv  no  means  mistake!  /  ^     '*^ 

Long  a^o  had  I  tried  to  leave  that  house  1250 

When  It  seemed  such  procedure  would  stop  sin ; 

And  still  failed  more  the  more  I  tried — at  first 

The  Archbishop,  as  I  told  you,  —  next,  our  lord 

The  Governor,  —  indeed  I  found  my  way, 

I  went  to  the  great  palace  where  he  rules,  1255 

Though  I  knew  well 't  was  he  who,  —  when  I  gave 

A  jewel  or  two,  themselves  had  given  me. 

Back  to  my  parents,  —  since  they  wanted  bread, 

Thev  who  nad  never  let  me  want  a  nosegay,  —  he 

SpoKe  of  the  jail  for  felons,  if  they  kept  1260 

What  was  first  theirs,  then  mine,  so  doubly  theirs, 

Though  all  the  while  my  husband^s  most  of  all! 

I  knew  well  who  had  spoke  the  word  wrought  this : 

Yet,  being  in  extremity,  I  fled 

To  the  Governor,  as  I  say,  —  scarce  opened  lip  1265 

When — the  cold  cruel  snicker  close  behind  — 

Guido  was  on  my  trace,  already  there. 

Exchanging  nod  and  wink  for  shrufi;  and  smile, 

And  I  —  pushed  back  to  him  and,  for  my  pains 

Paid  with  .  .  .  but  why  remember  what  is  past  ?  1270 

I  sought  out  a  poor  friar  the  people  call 

The  Roman,  and  confessed  my  sin  which  came 

Of  their  sin, — that  fact  could  not  be  repressed, — 

The  frightfiilness  of  my  despair  in  God : 

And,  feeling,  through  the  grate,  his  horror  shake,  1275 

Implored  him,  "  Write  for  me  who  cannot  write, 

Apprise  my  parents,  make  them  rescue  me! 

You  bid  me  be  courageous  and  trust  God : 

Do  you  in  turn  dare  somewhat,  trust  and  write 

<  Dear  friends,  who  used  to  be  my  parents  once,  1280 

And  now  declare  you  have  no  part  in  me, 

This  is  some  riddle  I  want  wit  to  solve. 

Since  you  must  love  me  with  no  difference. 

Even  suppose  you  altered,  —  there 's  your  hate, 

To  ask  for :  hate  of  you  two  dearest  ones  1285 

I  shall  find  liker  love  than  love  found  here. 

If  husbands  love  their  wives.    Take  me  away 

And  hate  me  as  you  do  the  gnats  and  fleas, 

Even  the  scorpions !    How  1  shall  rejoice ! ' 

Write  that  and  save  me!"    And  he  promised — wrote       1290 

Or  did  not  write ;  things  never  changed  at  all : 

He  was  not  like  the  Augustinian  here! 

Last,  in  a  desperation  I  appealed 

268         THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK. 

To  friends,  whoever  wished  me  better  days, 

To  Guillichini,  that 's  of  kin,  —  "  What,  1  —  1 295 

Travel  to  Rome  with  you  ?    A  flying  gout 

Bids  me  deny  my  heart  and  mind  my  leg! " 

Then  1  tried  Conti,  used  to  brave—  laugh  back 

The  louring  thunder  when  his  cousin  scowled 

At  me  protected  bv  his  presence :  "You —  1300 

Who  well  know  what  you  cannot  save  me  from,  — 

Carry  me  off!    What  frightens  you,  a  priest?" 

He  shook  his  head,  looked  grave  — * "  Above  my  strength ! 

Guido  has  claws  that  scratch,  shows  feline  teeth ; 

A  formidabler  foe  than  I  dare  fret :  1305 

Give  me  a  dog  to  deal  with,  twice  the  size! 

Of  course  I  am  a  priest  and  Canon  too. 

But  ...  by  the  bye  .  .  .  though  both,  not  quite  so  bold 

As  he,  my  fellow-Canon,  brother-priest. 

The  personage  in  such  ill  odor  here  13 10 

Because  of  the  reports  —  pure  birth  o'  the  brain! 

Our  Caponsacchi,  he 's  your  true  Saint  George 

To  slay  the  monster,  set  the  Princess  free. 

And  have  the  whole  High-Altar  to  himself; 

I  always  think  so  when  I  see  that  piece  13 15 

V  the  Pieve,^  that 's  his  church  and  mine,  you  know : 

Though  you  drop  eyes  at  mention  of  his  name!" 

That  name  had  eot  to  take  a  half-grotesque 

Half-ominous,  wholly  enigmatic  sense. 

Like  any  by-word,  broken  bit  of  song  1320 

Born  with  a  meaning,  changed  by  mouth  and  mouth 

That  mix  it  in  a  sneer  or  smile,  as  chance 

Bids,  till  it  now  means  nought  but  ughness 

And  perhaps  shame. 

— All  this  intends  to  say,  ^    - 
That,  over-night,  the  notion  of  escape  1325 

Had  seemed  distemper,  dreaming ;  and  the  name,  — 
Not  the  man,  but  the  name  of  him,  thus  made 
Into  a  mockery  and  disgrace, — why,  she 
Who  uttered  it  persistently,  had  laughed, 
"  I  name  his  name,  and  there  you  start  and  wince  1330 

As  criminal  from  the  red  tongs'  touch ! "  —  yet  now. 
Now,  as  I  stood  letting  morn  bathe  me  bright, 
Choosing  which  butterfly  should  bear  my  news,  — 
The  white,  the  brown  one,  or  that  tinier  blue,  — 
The  Margherita,  I  detested  so,  1335 

1  That  piece  V  the  Pieve  :  At  the  high  altar  is  a  picture  by  Vasari  of  Saint  George  killing 

POMPILfA.  369 

In  she  came — "  The  fine  day,  the  good  Spring  time! 

What,  up  and  out  at  window?    That  is  best. 

No  thought  of  Caponsacchi?  —  who  stood  there 

All  night  on  one  leg,  like  the  sentry  crane, 

Under  the  pelting  of  your  water-spout  —  1340 

Looked  last  look  at  your  lattice  ere  he  leave 

Our  city,  bury  his  dead  hope  at  Rome. 

Ay,  go  to  looking-glass  and  make  you  fine, 

While  he  may  die  ere  touch  one  least  loose  hair 

You  drag  at  with  the  comb  in  such  a  rage!  **  1345 

I  turned  —  "  Tell  Caponsacchi  he  may  come! " 

"Tell  him  to  come?    Ah,  but,  for  charity, 

A  truce  to  fooling!    Come ?    What,  —  come  this  eve  ? 

Peter  and  Paul!     But  I  see  through  the  trick! 

Yes,  come,  and  take  a  flower-pot  on  his  head,  1350 

Flung  from  your  terrace!    No  joke,  sincere  truth?" 

How  plainly  I  perceived  hell  flash  and  fade 

O'  the  face  of  her,  —  the  doubt  that  first  paled  joy, 

Then,  final  reassurance  I  indeed 

Was  caught  now,  never  to  be  free  again!  1355 

What  did  I  care?  —  who  felt  myself  of  force 

To  play  with  silk,  and  spurn  the  horsehair-springe. 

"But —  do  you  know  that  I  have  bade  him  come, 

And  in  your  name?    I  presumed  so  much. 

Knowing  the  thing  you  needed  in  your  heart.  1360 

But  somehow  —  what  had  I  to  show  in  proof? 

He  would  not  come :  half-promised,  that  was  all, 

And  wrote  the  letters  you  refused  to  read. 

What  is  the  message  tnat  shall  move  him  now?" 

"  After  the  Ave  Maria,  at  first  dark,  1365 

I  will  be  standing  on  the  terrace,  say! " 

"  I  would  I  had  a  good  long  lock  of  hair 
Should  prove  1  was  not  lying!    Never  mind! " 

Off" she  went  —  "May  he  not  refuse,  that's  all  — 
Fearing  a  trick!" 

I  answered,  "  He  will  come."  1370 

And,  all  day,  I  sent  prayer  like  incense  up 
To  God  the  strong,  God  the  beneficent, 
God  ever  mindful  in  all  strife  and  strait. 
Who,  for  our  own  good,  makes  the  need  extreme^ 


Till  at  the  last  He  puts  forth  might  and  saves.  137^ 

An  old  rhyme  came  into  my  head  and  rang        ' 

Of  how  a  virgin,  for  the  faith  of  God, 

Hid  herself,  &om  the  Paynims  that  pursued, 

In  a  cavers  heart ;  until  a  thunderstone, 

Wrapped  in  a  flame,  revealed  the  couch  and  prey  1380 

And  they  laughed  —  "  Thanks  to  lightning,  ours  at  last!  ^    • 

And  she  cried  "  Wrath  of  God,  assert  His  love! 

Servant  of  God,  thou  fire,  befriend  His  child! " 

And  lo,  the  fire  she  grasped  at,  fixed  its  flash. 

Lay  in  her  hand  a  calm  cold  dreadful  sword  1385 

She  brandished  till  pursuers  strewed  the  ground. 

So  did  the  souls  within  them  die  away, 

As  o'er  the  prostrate  bodies,  sworded,  safe. 

She  walked  forth  to  the  solitudes  and  Christ : 

So  should  I  grasp  the  lightning  and  be  saved!  1390 

And  still,  as  the  day  wore,  the  trouble  grew     /   •  ^' 

Whereby  I  guessed  there  would  be  bom  a  star, 

Until  at  an  mtense  throe  of  the  dusk, 

I  started  up,  was  pushed,  I  dare  to  sav, 

Out  on  the  terrace,  leaned  and  looked  at  last  1395 

Where  the  deliverer  waited  me :  the  same 

Silent  and  solemn  face,  I  first  descried 

At  the  spectacle,  confronted  mine  once  more. 

So  was  that  minute  twice  vouchsafed  me,  so 

The  manhood,  wasted  then,  was  still  at  watch  1400 

To  save  me  yet  a  second  time :  no  change 

Here,  though  all  else  changed  in  the  changing  world! 

1  spoke  on  the  instant,  as  my  duty  bade. 

In  some  such  sense  as  this,  whatever  the  phrase. 

"  Friend,  foolish  words  were  borne  from  you  to  me ;  '\i  ^  ^405 

Your  soul  behind  them  is  the  pure  strong  wind. 

Not  dust  and  feathers  which  its  breath  may  bear : 

These  to  the  witless  seem  the  wind  itself. 

Since  proving  thus  the  first  of  it  they  feel. 

If  by  mischance  you  blew  offence  my  way,  1410 

The  straws  are  dropt,  the  wind  desists  no  whit, 

And  how  such  strays  were  caught  up  in  the  street 

And  took  a  motion  from  you,  why  inquire  ? 

I  speak  to  the  strong  soul,  no  weak  disguise. 

If  it  be  truth,  —  why  should  I  doubt  it  truth? —  141 5 

You  serve  God  specially,  as  priests  are  bound. 

And  care  about  me,  stranger  as  I  am. 

So  far  as  wish  my  good,  —  that  miracle 

POMPIUA.  271 

I  take  to  intimate  He  wills  you  serve 

By  saving  me,  — what  else  can  He  direct?  1420 

Here  is  the  service.    Since  a  long  while  now, 

I  am  in  course  of  being  put  to  death : 

While  death  conccrnea  nothing  but  me,  I  bowed 

The  head  and  bade,  in  heart,  my  husband  strike. 

Now  I  imperil  something  more,  it  seems,  1425 

Something  that^s  trulier  me  than  this  myself, 

Something  I  trust  in  God  and  you  to  save. 

You  go  to  Rome,  they  tell  me :  take  me  there, 

Put  me  back  with  my  people !  ^ 

He  replied-^  -  .'f 

The  first  word  I  heard  ever  from  his  lips,  1430 

All  himself  in  it,  —  an  eternity 
Of  speech,  to  match  the  immeasurable  depth 
O'  the  soul  that  then  broke  silence  —  "  I  am  yours." 

So  did  the  star  rise,  soon  to  lead  mv  step, 

Lead  on,  nor  pause  before  it  should  stand  still  1435 

Above  the  House  o'  the  Babe,  —  my  babe  to  be. 

That  knew  me  first  and  thus  made  me  know  him, 

That  had  his  right  of  life  and  claim  on  mine. 

And  would  not  let  me  die  till  he  was  born, 

But  pricked  me  at  the  heart  to  save  us  both,  1440 

Saying  "Have  you  the  will?    Leave  God  the  way! " 

And  the  way  was  Caponsacchi  —  "  mine,"  thank  God! 

He  was  mine,  he  is  mine,  he  will  be  mine. 

No  pause  i*  the  leading  and  the  light!    I  know, 

Next  night  there  was  a  cloud  came,  and  not  he :  1445 

But  I  prayed  through  the  darkness  till  it  broke 

And  let  him  shine.    The  second  night,  he  came. 

"  The  plan  is  rash ;  the  project  desperate : 

In  such  a  flight  needs  must  I  risk  your  life, 

Give  food  for  fdsehood,  folly  or  mistake,  1450 

Ground  for  your  husband's  rancor  and  revenge"  — 

So  he  began  again,  with  the  same  &ce. 

I  felt  that,  the  same  loyalty — one  star 

Turning  now  red  that  was  so  white  before  — 

One  service  apprehended  newly :  just  1455 

A  word  of  mine  and  there  the  white  was  back! 

"  No,  friend,  for  you  will  take  me !    'T  is  yourself 

Risk  all,  not  I,  —  who  let  you,  for  I  trust 

In  the  compensating  great  God:  enough! 

I  know  you :  when  is  it  that  you  will  come  ?  "  1460 


"To-morrow  at  the  day's  dawn."    Then  I  heard 

What  I  should  do :  how  to  prepare  for  flight 

And  where  to  fly.  j  ^J 

That  night  my  husband  bade  \ 
"  —  YoUy  whom  I  loathe,  beware  you  break  my  sleep 
This  whole  night!    Couch  beside  me  like  the  corpse  1465 

I  would  you  were! "    The  rest  you  know,  I  think — 
How  I  found  Caponsacchi  and  escaped. 

And  this  man,  men  call  sinner?    Jesus  Christ! 

Of  whom  men  said,  with  mouths  Thyself  mad'st  once, 

"  He  hath  a  devil "  —  say  he  was  Thy  saint,  1470 

My  Caponsacchi!     Shield  and  show  —  unshroud 

In  Thine  own  time  the  glory  of  the  soul 

If  aught  obscure,  —  if  ink-spot,  fropi  vile  pens 

Scribbling  a  charge  against  him  —  (I  was  glad 

Then,  for  the  first  time,  that  I  could  not  write)  —  1475 

Flirted  his  way,  have  flecked  the  blaze! 

For  me,  >  '^ 
'T  is  otherwise :  let  men  take,  sift  my  thoughts 

—  Thoughts  I  throw  like  the  flax  for  sun  to  bleach! 
I  did  pray,  do  pray,  in  the  prayer  shall  die, 

"  Oh,  to  have  Caponsacchi  for  my  guide! "  1480 

Ever  the  fece  upturned  to  mine,  the  hand 

Holding  my  hand  across  the  world,  —  a  sense 

That  reads,  as  only  such  can  read,  the  mark 

God  sets  on  woman,  signifying  so 

She  should  —  shall  perad venture  —  be  divine ;  1485 

Yet  'ware,  the  while,  how  weakness  mars  the  print 

And  makes  confusion,  leaves  the  thing  men  see, 

—  Not  this  man  sees,  —  who  from  his  soul,  re-writes 
The  obliterated  charter,  —  love  and  strength 

Mending  what 's  marred.    "  So  kneels  a  votarist,  1490 

Weeds  some  poor  waste  traditionary  plot 

Where  shrine  once  was,  where  temple  yet  may  be. 

Purging  the  place  but  worshipping  the  while. 

By  faith  and  not  by  sight,  sight  clearest  so,  — 

Such  way  the  saints  work,"  —  says  Don  Celestine.  1495 

But  I,  not  privileged  to  see  a  saint 

Of  old  when  such  walked  earth  with  crown  and  palm. 

If  I  call  "  saint "  what  saints  call  something  else  — 

The  saints  must  bear  with  me,  impute  the  fault 

To  a  soul  i'  the  bud,  so  starved  by  ignorance,  1500 

Stinted  of  warmth,  it  will  not  blow  this  year 

Nor  recognize  the  orb  which  Spring-flowers  know 

But  if  meanwhile  some  insect  with  a  heart 


Worth  floods  of  lazy  music,  spendthrift  joy— 

Some  fire-fly  renounced  Spring  for  my  awarfed  cup^  1505 

Crept  close  to  me,  brought  lustre  for  the  dark, 

Comfort  against  the  cold,  —  what  though  excess 

Of  comfof t  should  miscall  the  creature  —  sun  ? 

What  did  the  sun  to  hinder  while  harsh  hands 

Petal  by  petal,  crude  and  colorless,  15 10 

Tore  me?    This  one  heart  gave  me  all  the  Spring  I 

Is  all  told  ?    There  ^s  the  journey :  and  where  ^s  time 

To  tell  you  how  that  heart  burst  out  in  shine? 

Yet  certain  points  do  press  on  me  too  hard. 

Each  place  must  have  a  name,  thoueh  I  forget :  15 15 

How  strange  it  was  —  there  where  the  plain  begins 

And  the  small  river  mitigates  its  flow  — 

When  eve  was  feiding  fast,  and  my  soul  sank, 

And  he  divined  what  surge  of  bitterness, 

In  overtaking  me,  would  float  me  back  1520 

Whence  I  was  carried  by  the  striding  day — 

So,  —  "  This  gray  place  was  famous  once,"  said  he  — 

And  he  began  that  legend  of  the  place 

As  if  in  answer  to.  the  unspoken  fear. 

And  told  me  all  about  a  brave  man  dead,  1525 

Which  lifted  me  and  let  my  soul  go  on  I 

How  did  he  know  too, — at  that  town's  approach 

By  the  rock-side,  —  that  in  coming  near  the  signs 

Of  life,  the  house-roofs  and  the  church  and  tower, 

I  saw  the  old  boundary  and  wall  o'  the  world  1530 

Rise  plain  as  ever  round  me,  hard  and  cold. 

As  if  the  broken  circlet  joined  again, 

Tightened  itself  about  me  with  no  break,  — 

As  if  the  town  would  turn  Arezzo's  self,  — 

The  husband  there,  —  the  friends  my  enemies,  1535 

All  ranged  against  me,  not  an  avenue 

To  try,  but  would  be  blocked  and  drive  me  back 

On  him,  —  this  other,  ...  oh  the  heart  in  that! 

Did  not  he  find,  bring,  put  into  my  arms 

A  new-born  babe  ?  —  and  I  saw  faces  beam  1540 

Of  the  young  mother  proud  to  teach  me  joy, 

And  gossips  round  expecting  my  surprise 

At  the  sudden  hole  through  earth  that  lets  in  heaven. 

I  could  believe  himself  by  his  strong  will 

Had  woven  around  me  what  I  thought  the  world  1545 

We  went  along  in,  every  circumstance, 

Towns,  flowers  and  faces,  all  things  helped  so  well ! 

For,  through  the  journey,  was  it  natural 

Such  comfort  should  arise  from  first  to  last? 

As  I  look  back,  all  is  one  milky  way ;  1550 

Still  bettered  more,  the  more  remembered,  so 


Do  new  stars  bud  while  I  but  search  for  old. 

And  fill  all  gaps  T  the  glorv^  and  grow  him  — 

Him  I  now  see  make  the  snine  everywhere. 

Even  at  the  last  when  the  bewildered  fiesh,  1555 

The  cloud  of  weariness  about  my  soul 

Clog|;ing  too  heavily,  sucked  down  all  sense,  — 

Still  Its  last  voice  was,  '^  He  will  watch  and  care ; 

Let  the  strength  go,  I  am  content :  he  stays!  ^* 

I  doubt  not  he  did  stay  and  care  for  ail  —  1560 

From  that  sick  minute  when  the  head  swam  round, 

And  the  eyes  looked  their  last  and  died  on  him. 

As  in  his  arms  he  caught  me,  and,  you  say, 

Carried  me  in,  that  tragical  red  eve. 

And  laid  me  where  I  next  returned  to  life  1565 

In  the  other  red  of  morning,  two  red  plates 

That  crushed  together,  crushed  the  time  between, 

And  are  since  then  a  solid  fire  to  me,  — 

When  in,  my  dreadful  husband  and  the  world 

Broke, —  and  I  saw  him,  master,  by  hell's  right,  1570 

And  saw  my  angel  helplessly  held  back 

By  guards  that  helped  the  malice  —  the  lamb  prone, 

The  serpent  towering  and  triumphant  —  then 

Came  all  the  strength  back  in  a  sudden  swell, 

I  did  for  once  see  nght,  do  right,  give  tongue  1575 

The  adequate  protest :  for  a  worm  must  turn 

If  it  would  have  its  wrong  observed  by  God. 

I  did  spring  up,  attempt  to  thrust  aside 

That  ice-block  Hwixt  the  sun  and  me,  lay  low 

The  neutralizer  of  all  good  and  truth.  1580 

If  I  sinned  so, — never  obey  voice  more 

O'  the  Just  and  Terrible,  who  bids  us  —  "  Bear! " 

Not — "  Stand  by,  bear  to  see  my  angels  bear! " 

I  am  clear  it  was  on  impulse  to  serve  God 

Not  save  myself, —  no — nor  my  child  unborn!  1585 

Had  I  else  waited  patiently  till  now  ?  — 

Who  saw  my  old  kind  parents,  silly-sooth 

And  too  much  trustful,  for  their  worst  of  faults. 

Cheated,  brow-beaten,  stripped  and  starved,  cast  out 

Into  the  kennel:  I  remonstrated,  1590 

Then  sank  to  silence,  for,  —  their  woes  at  end. 

Themselves  gone,  —  only  I  was  left  to  plague. 

If  only  I  was  threatened  and  belied. 

What  matter?     I  could  bear  it  and  did  bear; 

It  was  a  comfort,  still  one  lot  for  all :  1595 

They  were  not  persecuted  for  my  sake 

And  I,  estranged,  the  single  happy  one. 

But  when  at  last,  all  by  mvself  I  stood 

Obeying  the  clear  voice  wnich  bade  me  rise, 


Not  for  my  own  sake  but  my  babe  unborn,  1600 

And  take  the  anerePs  hand  was  sent  to  help  — 

And  found  the  old  adversary  athwart  the  path  — 

Not  my  hand  simply  struck  from  the  angePs,  but 

The  very  angePs  self  made  foul  i^  the  face 

By  the  nend  who  struck  there,  —  that  I  would  not  bear,    1605 

That  only  I  resisted!    So,  my  first 

And  last  resistance  was  invincible. 

Prayers  move  God ;  threats,  and  nothing  else,  move  men! 

I  must  have  prayed  a  man  as  he  were  God 

When  I  implored  the  Governor  to  right  1610 

My  parents^  wrongs :  the  answer  was  a  smile. 

Tne  Archbishop,  —  did  I  clasp  his  feet  enough. 

Hide  my  face  hotly  on  them,  while  I  told 

More  than  I  dared  make  my  own  mother  know  ? 

The  profit  was  —  compassion  and  a  jest.  161 5 

This  time,  the  foolish  prayers  were  aone  with,  right 

Used  might,  and  solemnized  the  sport  at  once. 

All  was  against  the  combat :  vantage,  mine? 

The  runaway  avowed,  the  accomplice-wife, 

In  company  with*  the  plan-contriving  priest  ?  1620 

Yet,  shame  thus  rank  and  patent,  I  struck,  bare, 

At  foe  from  head  to  foot  in  magic  mail, 

And  off  it  withered,  cobweb-armory 

Against  the  lightning;!    Twas  truth  singed  the  lies 

And  saved  me,  not  the  vain  sword  nor  weak  speech!         1625 

You  see,  I  will  not  have  the  service  fail!    ^  \*.^    ^ 

I  say,  the  angel  saved  me :  I  am  safe ! 

Others  may  want  and  wish,  I  wish  nor  want 

One  point  o'  the  circle  plainer,  where  I  stand 

Traced  round  about  with  white  to  front  the  world.  1630 

What  of  the  calumny  I  came  across, 

What  o'  the  way  to  the  end?  —  the  end  crowns  all. 

The  judges  judged  aright  i'  the  main,  gave  me 

The  uttermost  of  my  heart's  desire,  a  truce 

From  torture  and  Arezzo,  balm  for  hurt,  1635 

With  the  quiet  nuns,  —  God  recompense  the  good! 

Who  said  and  sang  away  the  ugly  past. 

And,  when  my  final  fortune  was  revealed. 

What  safety  while,  amid  my  parents'  arms, 

My  babe  was  given  me!    Yes,  he  saved  my  babe :  1640 

It  would  not  have  peeped  forth,  the  bird-like  thing, 

Through  that  Arezzo  noise  and  trouble :  back 

Had  it  returned  nor  ever  let  me  see! 

But  the  sweet  peace  cured  all,  and  let  me  live 

And  give  my  bird  the  life  among  the  leaves  1645 

God  meant  him!    Weeks  and  months  of  quietude, 


I  could  lie  in  such  peace  and  learn  so  much  — 

Begin  the  task,  I  see  how  needful  now, 

Of  understanding  somewhat  of  my  past,  — 

Know  life  a  little,  I  should  leave  so  soon.  1650 

Therefore,  because  this  man  restored  my  soul. 

All  has  been  right ;  I  have  gained  my  gain,  enjoyed 

As  well  as  suffered,  —  nay,  got  foretaste  too 

Of  better  life  beginning  where  this  ends  — 

All  through  the  breath mg-while  allowed  me  thus,  1655 

Which  let  good  premonitions  reach  my  soul 

Unthwarted,  and  benignant  influence  flow 

And  interpenetrate  and  change  my  heart, 

Uncrossed  by  what  was  wicked,  —  nay,  unkind. 

For,  as  the  weakness  of  my  time  drew  nigh,  1660 

Nobody  did  me  one  disservice  more, 

Spoke  coldly  or  looked  strangely,  broke  the  love 

I  lay  in  the  arms  of,  till  my  boy  was  born. 

Born  all  in  love,  with  nought  to  spoil  the  bliss 

A  whole  long  fortnight :  in  a  life  like  mine  1665 

A  fortnight  filled  with  bliss  is  long  and  much. 

All  women  are  not  mothers  of  a  boy, 

Though  they  live  twice -the  length  of  my  whole  life, 

And,  as  they  fancy,  happily  all  the  same. 

There  I  lay,  then,  all  my  great  fortnight  long,  1670 

As  if  it  woidd  continue,  broaden  out 

Happily  more  and  more,  and  lead  to  heaven : 

Christmas  before  me,  —  was  not  that  a  chance  ? 

I  never  realized  God's  birth  before  — 

How  He  grew  likest  God  in  being  born.  1675 

This  time  I  felt  like  Mary,  had  my  babe 

Lying  a  little  on  my  breast  like  hers. 

So  all  went  on  till,  just  four  days  ago  — 

The  night  and  the  tap.  ^. 

Oh  it  shall  be  success     ' 
To  the  whole  of  our  poor  family!    My  friends  1680 

.  .  .  Nay,  father  and  mother,  —  give  me  back  my  word ! 
They  have  been  rudely  stripped  of  life,  disgraced 
Like  children  who  must  needs  go  clothed  too  fine. 
Carry  the  garb  of  Carnival  in  Lent. 

If  they  too  much  affected  frippery,  1685 

They  have  been  punished  and  submit  themselves. 
Say  no  word :  all  is  over,  they  see  God 
Who  will  not  be  extreme  to  mark  their  fault 
Or  He  had  granted  respite :  they  are  safe. 

For  that  most  woeful  man  my  husband  once,    ^  1 690 

Who,  needing  respite,  still  draws  vital  breath, 

POAfPIUA.  ^77 

I  —  pardon  him  ?    So  far  as  lies  in  me, 

I  give  him  for  his  good  the  life  he  takes. 

Praying  the  world  will  therefore  acquiesce. 

Let  him  make  God  amends,  —  none,  none  to  me  1695 

Who  thank  him  rather  that,  whereas  strane^e  fate 

Modcinely  styled  him  husband  and  me  wite, 

Himself  this  way  at  least  pronounced  divorce, 

Blotted  the  marriage-bond :  this  blood  of  mine 

Flies  forth  exultingly  at  an^  door,  1700 

Washes  the  parchment  white,  and  thanks  the  blow. 

We  shall  not  meet  in  this  world  nor  the  next. 

But  where  will  God  be  absent?    In  His  face 

Is  li^ty  but  in  His  shadow  healing  too : 

Let  Guido  touch  the  shadow  and  be  healed!  170$ 

And  as  my  presence  was  importunate,  — 

My  earthly  good,  temptation  and  a  snare,  — 

Nothing  about  me  but  drew  somehow  down 

His  hate  upon  me,  —  somewhat  so  excused 

Therefore,  since  hate  was  thus  the  truth  of  him,  —  1710 

May  my  evanishment  for  evermore 

Help  farther  to  relieve  the  heart  that  cast 

Such  object  of  its  natural  loathing  forth ! 

So  he  was  made ;  he  nowise  made  himself: 

I  could  not  love  him,  but  his  mother  did.  171 5 

His  soul  has  never  lain  beside  my  soul : 

But  for  the  unresisting  body,  —  thanks ! 

He  burned  that  garment  spotted  by  the  flesh. 

Whatever  he  touched  is  rightly  ruined :  plague 

It  caught,  and  disinfection  it  had  craved  1720 

Still  but  for  Guido ;  I  am  saved  through  him 

So  as  by  fire ;  to  him  —  thanks  and  farewell ! 

Even  for  my  babe,  my  boy,  there 's  safety  thence  — 

From  the  sudden  death  of  me,  I  mean  :  we  poor 

Weak  souls,  how  we  endeavor  to  be  strong!  1725 

I  was  already  using  up  my  life,  — 

This  portion,  now,  should  do  him  such  a  good, 

This  other  go  to  keep  off  such  an  ill ! 

The  great  life ;  see,  a  breath  and  it  is  gone! 

So  is  detached,  so  left  all  by  itself  1730 

The  little  life,  the  fact  which  means  so  much. 

Shall  not  God  stoop  the  kindlier  to  His  work, 

His  marvel  of  creation,  foot  would  crush. 

Now  that  the  hand  He  trusted  to  receive 

And  hold  it,  lets  the  treasure  fall  perforce?  1735 

The  better ;  He  shall  have  in  orphanage 

His  own  way  all  the  clearlier :  if  my  babe 

Outlived  the  hour — and  he  has  lived  two  weeks  — 


It  is  through  God  who  knows  I  am  not  by. 

Who  is  it  makes  the  soft  gold  hair  turn  blacky  1740 

And  sets  the  tongue,  mieht  lie  so  long  at  rest. 

Tiring  to  talk?    Let  us  leave  God  alone! 

Why  should  I  doubt  He  will  explain  in  time 

What  I  feel  now,  but  fail  to  find  the  words? 

My  babe  nor  was,  nor  is,  nor  vet  shall  be  1745 

Count  Guido  Franceschini^s  child  at  all  — 

Only  his  mother^  born  of  love  not  hate! 

So  shall  I  have  my  rights  in  after-time. 

It  seems  absurd,  impossible  to-da^ ; 

So  seems  so  much  else,  not  explained  but  known!  1750 

Ah!    Friends,  I  thank  and  bless  you  every  one! 
No  more  now :  I  withdraw  from  earth  and  man 
To  my  own  soul,  compose  myself  for  God. 

Well,  and  there  is  more !    Yes,  my  end  of  breath 

Shall  bear  away  my  soul  in  being  true!  1755 

He  is  still  here,  not  outside  with  the  world, 

Here,  here,  I  have  him  in  his  rightful  place! 

'T  is  now,  when  I  am  most  upon  the  move, 

I  feel  for  what  I  verily  find  —  again 

The  face,  again  the  eyes,  again,  through  all,  1760 

The  heart  and  its  immeasurable  love 

Of  my  one  friend,  my  only,  all  my  own. 

Who  put  his  breast  between  the  spears  and  me. 

Ever  with  Caponsacchi !    Otherwise 

Here  alone  would  be  failure,  loss  to  me —  1765 

How  much  more  loss  to  him,  with  life  debarred 

From  giving  life,  love  locked  from  love's  display. 

The  day-star  stopped  its  task  that  makes  night  mom! 

0  lover  of  my  life,  O  soldier-saint, 

No  work  begun  shall  ever  pause  for  death!  1770 

Love  will  be  helpful  to  me  more  and  more 

r  the  coming  course,  the  new  path  I  must  tread  — 

My  weak  hand  in  thy  strong  hand,  strong  for  that! 

Tell  him  that  if  I  seem  without  him  now. 

That 's  the  world's  insight !    Oh,  he  understands!  1775 

He  is  at  Civita  —  do  I  once  doubt 

The  world  again  is  holding  us  apart  ? 

He  had  been  here,  displayed  in  my  behalf 

The  broad  brow  that  reverberates  the  truth, 

And  flashed  the  word  God  gave  him,  back  to  man!  1780 

1  know  where  the  free  soul  is  flown!    My  fate 
Will  have  been  hard  for  even  him  to  bear : 
Let  it  confirm  him  in  the  trust  of  God, 
Showing  how  holily  he  dared  the  deed! 

POAfPlLlA.  279 

And,  for  the  rest, — say,  from  the  deed,  no  touch  1785 

Of  harm  came,  but  all  good,  all  happiness. 

Not  one  faint  fleck  of  failure!    Why  explain? 

What  I  see,  oh,  he  sees  and  how  much  more! 

Tell  him, — I  know  not  wherefore  the  true  word 

Should  fade  and  fall  unuttered  at  the  last  —  1790 

It  was  the  name  of  him  I  sprang  to  meet 

When  came  the  knock,  the  summons  and  the  end. 

^  My  great  heart,  my  strong  hand  are  back  again!  ^^ 

I  womd  have  sprung  to  these,  beckoning  across 

Murder  and  hell  gigantic  and  distinct  1795 

O^  the  threshold,  posted  to  exclude  me  heaven : 

He  is  ordained  to  call  and  I  to  come! 

Do  not  the  dead  wear  flowers  when  dressed  for  God? 

Say,  —  I  am  all  in  flowers  A-om  head  to  foot! 

Say, — Not  one  flower  of  all  he  said  and  did,  1800 

Might  seem  to  flit  unnoticed,  fade  unknown, 

But  dropped  a  seed,  has  grown  a  balsam-tree 

Whereof  the  blossoming  perfumes  the  place 

At  this  supreme  of  moments!    He  is  a  priest ; 

He  cannot  marry  therefore,  which  is  right :  1805 

I  think  he  would  not  marry  if  he  could. 

Marriage  on  earth  seems  such  a  counterfeit, 

Mere  imitation  of  the  inimitable : 

In  heaven  we  have  the  real  and  true  and  sure. 

T  is  there  they  neither  marry  nor  are  given  1 8 10 

In  marriage  but  are  as  the  angels :  right, 

Oh  how  nght  that  is,  how  like  Jesus  Christ 

To  say  that!    Marriage-making  for  the  earth. 

With  gold  so  much,  —  birth,  power,  repute  so  much, 

Or  beauty,  youth  so  much,  in  lack  of  these!  181 5 

Be  as  the  angels  rather,  who,  apart, 

Know  themselves  into  one,  are  found  at  length 

Married,  but  marry  never,  no,  nor  give 

In  marriage ;  they  are  man  and  wife  at  once 

When  the  true  time  is :  here  we  have  to  wait  1820 

Not  so  long  neither!    Could  we  by  a  wish 

Have  what  we  will  and  get  the  future  now, 

Would  we  wish  aught  done  undone  in  the  past  ? 

So,  let  him  wait  God's  instant  men  call  years ; 

Meantime  hold  hard  by  truth  and  his  great  soul,  1825 

Do  out  the  duty!    Through  such  souls  alone 

God  stooping  shows  sufficient  of  His  light 

For  us  i'  the  dark  to  rise  by.    And  I  rise. 




[Dominus  Hyacinthus  de  Archangelis  regards  the  great  Franceschini  case 
simply  as  a  fortunate  chance  for  him  to  show  off  his  superior  skill  as  a  lawyer,  and 
thereby  discomfit  his  rival,  the  Fisc.  While  his  head  is  occupied  in  preparing 
what  he  considers  a  learned  defence  in  support  of  the  right  of  wounded  honor  to 
vindicate  itself,  based  upon  precedents  drawn  from  animal  life,  and  from  Pagan  and 
Christian  custom,  his  heart  is  entirely  occupied  with  his  own  domestic  felicities.] 

Ah,  my  Giacinto,  he  ^s  no  ruddy  rogue, 

Is  not  Cinone?^    What,  to-day  we're  eight? 

Seven  and  one  's  eight,  I  hope,  old  curly-pate  I 

—  Branches  me  out  his  verb-tree  on  the  slate, 

Amo  -as  -avi  -atum  -are  -ans,  5 

Up  to  -aturusy  person,  tense,  and  mood, 

Quit^  me  cum  subjunctivo  '  (I  could  cry) 

And  chews  Corderius^  with  his  morning  crust! 

Look  eight  years  onward,  and  he  's  perched,  he  ^s  perched 

Dapper  and  deft  on  stool  beside  this  chair,  lo 

Cinozzo,  Cinoncello,  who  but  he? 

—  Trying  his  milk-teeth  on  some  crusty  case 
Like  this,  papa  shall  triturate  ^  fiill  soon 

To  smooth  Papinianian  ^  pulp! 

It  trots 
Already  through  my  head,  though  noon  be  now,  15 

Does  supper-time  and  what  belongs  to  eve. 
Dispose,  O  Don,  o'  the  day,  first  work  then  play! 

—  The  proverb  bids.    And  "  then  "  means,  won't  we  hold 
Our  little  yearly  lovesome  frolic  feast, 

Cinuolo's  birth-night,  Cinicello's  own,  20 

That  makes  gruff  January  grin  perforce! 

For  too  contagious  grows  the  mirth,  the  warmth 

^  Pauperum  Procurator  :  the  official  de-  construed  with  '  branches '  ^  giTcs  me  the  rule 

fender  of  criminals,  as  the  "Fisc"  is  the  ol  qui  with  the  subjunctive."     Probably  a 

official  prosecutor.  punning  quip,  both  ideas  being  in  mind. 

*  Cinone  :  a  pet  diminutive  of  Giacinto,  as  *  Corderius  :  Mathurin  Cordier,  author  of 
are  Cinozzo,  Cinoncello,  Cinino,  and  various  the  most  popular  Latin  school-book  of  the 
other  forms  occurring  in  this  Book.  sixteenth  century,  the  "  Colloquia  Scholas- 

•  Quies  me  cum  subjunctivo  :  a  truce  with  tica." 

the  subjunctive.     Or,  Prof.  Corson  explains,         **  Triturate  :  grind  down. 

**  the  relative  qui  (in  Italics)  is  used  as  a  verb         "  Papinianian  :  from  Papinius,  a  Roman 

with  English  verb-ending  'es'  (in  Roman),   *)uml  ol  \.Yv«  b^^ninf^  of  the  third  century. 


Escaping  from  so  many  hearts  at  once  — 

When  the  good  wife,  buxom  and  bonny  yet, 

Jokes  the  hale  grandsire,  —  such  are  just  the  sort  25 

To  go  off  suddenly,  —  he  who  hides  the  key 

O'  the  box  beneath  his  pillow  every  night,  — 

Which  box  may  hold  a  parchment  (some  one  thinks) 

Will  show  a  scribbled  something  like  a  name 

"  Cinino,  Ciniccino,"  near  the  end,  30 

To  whom  I  give  and  I  bequeath  my  lands, 

Estates,  tenements,  hereditaments, 

When  I  decease  as  honest  grandsire  ought. ^^ 

Wherefore  —  yet  this  one  time  again  perhaps  — 

ShanH  my  Orvieto  ^  fuddle  his  old  nose!  35 

Then,  uncles,  one  or  the  other,  well  i'  the  world, 

May  —  drop  in,  merely? — trudge  through  rain  and  wind. 

Rather!    The  smell-feasts  rouse  them  at  the  hint 

There 's  cookery  in  a  certain  dwelling-place ! 

Gossips,  too,  each  with  keepsake  in  his  poke,  40 

Will  pidc  the  way,  thrid  lane  by  lantern-light. 

And  so  find  door,  put  galli^kin  ^  off 

At  entry  of  a  decent  domicile 

Cornered  in  snug  Condotti,'  —  all  for  love, 

All  to  crush  cup  with  Cinucciatolo! 

Well,  45 

Let  others  dimb  the  heights  o^  the  court,  the  camp! 
How  vain  are  chambering  and  wantonness. 
Revel  and  rout  and  pleasures  that  make  mad ! 
Commend  me  to  home-joy,  the  family  board. 
Altar  and  hearth!    These,  with  a  brisk  career,  50 

A  source  of  honest  profit  and  good  fame. 
Just  so  much  work  as  keeps  the  brain  from  rust. 
Just  so  much  play  as  lets  the  heart  expand. 
Honoring  God  and  serving  man,  —  I  say. 
These  are  reality,  and  all  else,  —  fluff,  55 

Nutshell  and  nought,  —  thank  Flaccus^  for  the  phrase! 
Suppose  I  had  been  Fisc,  yet  bachelor! 

Why,  work  with  a  will,  then!    Wherefore  lazy  now? 

Turn  up  the  hour-glass,  whence  no  sand-grain  slips 

But  should  have  done  its  duty  to  the  saint  60 

O'  the  day,  the  son  and  heir  that 's  eight  years  old ! 

Let  law  come  dimple  Cinoncino^s  cheek. 

And  Latin  dumple  Cinarello^s  chin, 

^  Orvieto:  a  rich  wine.  *  Condotti :  a  street  which  runs  off  the 

*  Galligaskin  :  large  hose  or  trousers,  evi-    Q>rso. 
dently  from  the  context  worn  as  an  outer  pro-        *  Flaccus  :  Horace,  "  Satires,"  ii.  5,  35, 
tnction.  guassa  nMce^  a   proverbial    expression   for 

something  \^Q(thles§. 


The  while  we  spread  him  fine  and  toss  him  flat 

This  pulp  that  makes  the  pancake,  trim  our  mass  65 

Of  matter  into  Argument  the  First, 

Prime  Pleading  in  defence  of  our  accused, 

Which,  once  a-waft  on  paper  wing,  shall  soar, 

Shall  signalize  befofe  applausive  Rome 

What  study,  and  mayhap  some  mother-wit,  70 

Can  do  toward  making  Master  fop  and  Fisc 

Old  bachelor  Bottinius  bite  his  thumb. 

Now,  how  good  God  is!    How  falls  plumb  to  point 

This  murder,  gives  me  Guido  to  defend 

Now,  of  all  days  i'  the  year,  just  when  the  boy  75 

Verges  on  Virgil,  reaches  the  right  a^e 

For  some  such  illustration  from  his  sire, 

Stimulus  to  himself!    One  mi^ht  wait  years 

And  never  find  the  chance  which  now  finds  me! 

The  fact  is,  there  ^s  a  blessing  on  the  hearth,  80 

A  special  providence  for  fatherhood! 

Here  ^s  a  man,  and  what  ^s  more,  a  noble,  kills 

—  Not  sneakingly  but  almost  with  parade — 
Wife's  father  and  wife's  mother  and  wife's  self 

That's  mother's  self  of  son  and  heir  (like  mine!)  85 

— And  here  stand  I,  the  favored  advocate, 

Who  pluck  this  flower  o'  the  field,  no  Solomon 

Was  ever  clothed  in  glorious  gold  to  match. 

And  set  the  same  in  Cinoncino's  cap! 

I  defend  Guido  and  his  comrades  —  I !  90 

Pray  God,  I  keep  me  humble :  not  to  me  — 

Non  nobis ^  Domine^  sed  tibi  lausl 

How  the  fop  chuckled  when  they  made  him  Fisc! 

We  '11  beat  you,  my  Bottinius,  all  for  love. 

All  for  our  tribute  to  Cinotto's  day.  95 

Why,  *sbuddikins,  old  Innocent  himself 

May  rub  his  eyes  at  the  bustle,  —  ask  "  What 's  this 

Rolling  from  out  the  rostrum,  as  a  gust 

O*  the  Pro  Milone  ^  had  been  prisoned  there. 

And  rattled  Rome  awake  ?  "    Awaken  Rome,  100 

How  can  the  Pope  doze  on  in  decency? 

He  needs  must  wake  up  also,  speak  his  word. 

Have  his  opinion  like  the  rest  of  Rome, 

About  this  huge,  this  hurly-burly  case : 

He  wants  who  can  excogitate  the  truth,  105 

Give  the  result  in  speech,  plain  black  and  white. 

To  mumble  in  the  mouth  and  make  his  own 

—  A  little  changed,  good  man,  a  little  changed! 

^  Non  nobis  J  etc. :   not  unto  us,  O  Lord,        '  Pro  Milone  :   Cicero's  great  speech  in 
hut  to  thee  the  praise.  defence  of  Milo  on  a  charge  of  murder. 


No  matter,  so  his  ^titude  be  moved, 

By  when  my  Giaantino  gets  of  age,  1 10 

Mindful  of  who  thus  helped  him  at  a  pinch, 

Archangelus  Procurator  Pauperum  — 

And  proved  Hortensius  ^  Reaivivusl 

.  To  earn  the  Est-est^  merit  the  minced  herb 
That  mollifies  the  liver's  leathery  slice,  11^ 

With  here  a  goose-foot,  there  a  cock^s-comb  stuck. 
Cemented  in  an  element  of  cheese! 
I  doubt  if  dainties  do  the  ^randsire  good : 
Last  June  he  had  a  sort  of  stranding  .  .  .  bah! 
He  ^s  his  own  master,  and  his  wm  is  made.  120 

So,  liver  fizz,  law  flit  and  Latin  fly 
As  we  rub  hands  o'er  dish  by  way  of  grace! 
May  I  lose  cause  if  I  vent  one  word  more 
Except,  —  with  fi*esh-cut  quill  we  ink  the  white,  — 
P-r-o-^o  Guidone  et  Sociis^    There!  125 

Count  Guido  married  —  or,  in  Latin  due. 

What  ?    Duxit  in  uxor  em  /  * — commonplace ! 

Tadasjugales  iniit,  subiity  —  ha! 

He  underwent  the  matrimonial  torch  ? 

Connubio  stabili  sibijunxit,  —  hum !  1 30 

In  stable  bond  of  marriage  bound  his  own? 

That  ^s  clear  of  any  modem  taint :  and  yet  .  .  . 

Virgil  is  little  help  to  who  writes  prose. 

He  shall  attack  me  Terence  with  the  dawn. 

Shall  Cinuccino!    Mum,  mind  business,  Sir!  135 

Thus  circumstantially  evolve  we  facts, 

It  a  se  habet  ideo  series  facti: 

He  wedded,  — ah,  with  owls  *  for  augury! 

Nufiseraty  heu  simstris  avibus^ 

One  of  the  blood  Arezzo  boasts  her  best,  140 

Dominus  Guido ^  nobili  genere  ortusy 

Pompilice  .  .  . 

But  the  version  afterward! 
Curb  we  this  ardor!    Notes  alone,  to-day, 

^  Hortensius  :    the  great  Roman  orator,         ^  Duxit  in  uxorem  :  as  Browning  gives 

contemporary  with  Cicero.  a  free  version  of  most  of  the  Latin  used  by 

>  £st-est :  a  wine  so  called  because  a  noble-  Archangelis  in  his  defence,  literal  translations 

man  once  sent  his  servant  in  advance  to  write  are  omitted  from  the  notes.    Only  where  no 

"Est,"  it  is!  on  any  inn  where  the  wine  was  hint  of  the  meaning  can  be  gained  from  the 

particularly  good.     At   one  inn  it  was   so  text,  will  a  translation  be  given, 
superlatively  good  that  he  wrote  Est-est.  ^  Owls  for  augury  :    the  owl  was  con* 

*  Pro  Guidone  et  Sociis  :  for  Guido  and  sidered  a  bird  of  evil  omen. 
bis  associates. 

284  ^^^  ^^^G  ^^^  ^^^  BOOK. 

The  speech  to-morrow  and  the  Latin  last : 

Such  was  the  rule  in  Farinacci^s  ^  time.  145 

Indeed  I  hitched  it  into  verse  and  good. 

Unluckily,  law  quite  absorbs  a  man. 

Or  else  1  think  1  too  had  poetized. 

"  Law  is  the  pork  substratum  of  the  fry, 

Goose-foot  and  cock's-comb  are  Latinity," —  150 

And  in  this  case,  if  circumstance  assist. 

We  '11  garnish  law  with  idiom,  never  fear! 

Out-of-the-way  events  extend  our  scope : 

For  instance,  when  Bottini  brings  his  charge, 

"  That  letter  which  you  say  Pompilia  wrote, —  155 

To  criminate  her  parents  and  herself 

And  disengage  her  husband  from  the  coil,  — 

That,  Guido  Franceschini  wrote,  say  we : 

Because  Pompilia  could  nor  read  nor  write. 

Therefore  he  pencilled  her  such  letter  first,  160 

Then  made  her  trace  in  ink  the  same  again.^^ 

—  Ha,  my  Bottini,  have  I  thee  on  hip  ? 

How  will  he  turn  this  and  break  Tully's  pate? 

"  Existimandum'^^  (don't  I  hear  the  dog!) 

"  Quod  Guido  designaverit  element  a  165 

Dicta  efiistolcBy  qua  fuerint 

(Superinducto  ab  ea  calatnd) 

Notata  atramento  "  —  there 's  a  style !  — 

"  Quia  ipsa  scribere  nesciebaty    Boh ! 

Now,  my  turn!     Either,  Insulse!^  (I  outburst)  170 

Stupidly  put!    Inane  is  the  response, 

Inanis  est  responsiOy  or  the  like  — 

To  wit,  that  each  of  all  those  characters. 

Quod  singula  elementa  efiistolcBj 

Had  first  of  all  been  traced  for  her  by  him,  175 

Fuerant  per  eum  prius  designata. 

And  then,  the  ink  applied  a-top  of  that, 

Et  deinde^  superinducto  calamoy 

The  piece,  she  says,  became  her  handiwork, 

Per  earn,  efformata  ut  ipsa  asserit,  180 

Inane  were  such  response!  (a  second  time : ) 

Her  husband  outlined  her  the  whole,  forsooth? 

Vir  ejus  lineabat  epistolam  f 

What,  she  confesses  that  she  wrote  the  thing, 

Fatetur  earn  scripsisse^  (scorn  that  scathes!)  185 

That  she  might  pay  obedience  to  her  lord? 

Ut  viro  obtentperaret,  apices 

(Here  repeat  charge  with  proper  varied  phrase) 

Eo  designante,  ipsaque  calamum 

*  Farinacci:  see  note,  VIII.  333.  *  Insulse  :  abiurd. 


Super  inducentef    By  such  argument,  190 

Ita  pariteTy  she  seeks  to  show  the  same, 

(Ay,  bv  Saint  Joseph  and  what  samts  you  please) 

Epistciam  ostendity  medius  fidiusj 

No  voluntary  deed  but  fruit  of  force! 

N&H  volufitarU  sed  coacte  scriptam  I  195 

That's  the  way  to  write  Latin,  friend  my  Fisc! 

Bottini  is  a  beast,  one  barbarous : 

Look  out  for  him  when  he  attempts  to  say 

**  Armed  with  a  pistol,  Guido  followed  her! " 

Will  not  I  be  beforehand  with  my  Fisc,  aoo 

Cut  away  phrase  by  phrase  from  underfoot! 

Guido  Pompiliam  —  Guido  thus  his  wife 

Following  with  igneous  engine,  shall  I  have  ? 

Armis  munitus  igneis  persequens  — 

Arma  suiphurea  gestans,  sulphury  arms,  205 

Or,  might  one  style  a  pistol  —  popping-piece? 

Armaius  breviori  schpulo  f 

We  '11  let  him  have  been  armed  so,  though  it  make 

Somewhat  against  us :  I  had  thought  to  own  — 

Provided  with  a  simple  travelling-sword,  210 

Ense  solummodo  viatorio 

Instrucius:  but  we'll  grant  the  pistol  here : 

Better  we  lost  the  cause  than  lacked  the  gird 

At  the  Fisc's  Latin,  lost  the  Judge's  laugh! 

It's  Venturini  that  decides  for  style.  215 

Tommati  rather  goes  upon  the  law. 

So,  as  to  law,  — 

Ah,  but  with  law  ne'er  hope 
To  level  the  fellow,  —  don't  I  know  his  trick ! 
How  he  draws  up,  ducks  under,  twists  aside! 
He 's  a  lean-gutted  hectic  rascal,  fine  220 

As  pale-haired  red -eyed  ferret  which  pretends 
'Tis  ermine,  pure  soft  snow  from  tail  to  snout. 
He  eludes  law  by  piteous  looks  aloft, 
Lets  Latin  glance  off  as  he  makes  appeal 
To  saint  that's  somewhere  in  the  ceiling-top :  225 

Do  you  suppose  I  don't  conceive  the  beast  ? 
Plague  of  the  ermine-vermin!     For  it  takes. 
It  takes,  and  here 's  the  fellow  Fisc,  you  see, 
And  Judge,  you'll  not  be  long  in  seeing  next! 
Confound  the  fop  —  he 's  now  at  work  like  me :  230 

Enter  his  study,  as  I  seem  to  do, 
Hear  him  read  out  his  writing  to  himself! 
I  know  he  writes  as  if  he  spoke :  I  hear 
The  hoarse  shrill  throat,  see  shut  eyes,  neck  shot-forth, 
—  I  see  him  strain  on  tiptoe,  soar  and  pour  "i.^^ 

286         THE  RING  AND  THE  BOOK. 

Eloquence  out,  nor  stay  nor  stint  at  all — 

Perorate  in  the  air,  then  quick  to  press 

With  the  product!    What  abuse  of  type  and  sheet! 

He  '11  keep  clear  of  my  cast,  my  logic-throw, 

Let  ar£;ument  slide,  and  then  deliver  swift  240 

Some  bowl  from  quite  an  unguessed  point  of  stand  — 

Having  the  luck  o'  the  last  word,  the  reply! 

A  plaguy  cast,  a  mortifying  stroke : 

You  face  a  fellow  —  cries  "  So,  there  you  stand? 

But  I  discourteous  jump  clean  o'er  your  head!  245 

You  take  ship-carpentry  for  pilotage. 

Stop  rat-holes,  while  a  sea  sweeps  through  the  breach,  — 

Hammer  and  fortify  at  puny  points? 

Do,  clamp  and  tenon,  make  all  tight  and  safe! 

'T  is  here  and  here  and  here  you  ship  a  sea,  250 

No  good  of  your  stopped  leaks  and  littleness! " 

Yet  what  do  I  name  'Mittle  and  a  leak'^? 

The  main  defence  o'  the  murder's  used  to  death, 

By  this  time,  dry  bare  bones,  no  scrap  we  pick : 

Safer  I  worked  the  new,  the  unforeseen,  255 

The  nice  by-stroke,  the  fine  and  improvised 

Point  that  can  titillate  the  brain  o'  the  Bench 

Torpid  with  over-teaching,  long  ago! 

As  if  Tommati  (that  has  heard,  reheard 

And  heard  a^ain,  first  this  side  and  then  that  —  260 

Guido  and  Pietro,  Pietro  and  Guido,  din 

And  deafen,  full  three  years,  at  each  long  ear) 

Don't  want  amusement  for  instruction  now, 

Won't  rather  feel  a  flea  run  o'er  his  ribs, 

Than  a  daw  settle  heavily  on  his  head!  265 

Oh  I  was  young  and  had  the  trick  of  fence. 

Knew  subtle  pass  and  push  with  careless  right  — 

My  left  arm  ever  quiet  behind  back. 

With  dagger  ready :  not  both  hands  to  blade! 

Puff  and  blow,  put  the  strength  out,  Blunderbore!  270 

There 's  my  subordinate,  young  Spreti,  now. 

Pedant  and  prig,  —  he  '11  pant  away  at  proof. 

That 's  his  way! 

Now  for  mine  —  to  rub  some  life 
Into  one's  choppy  fingers  this  cold  day! 

I  trust  Cinuzzo  ties  on  tippet,  guards  275 

The  precious  throat  on  which  so  much  depends! 
Guido  must  be  all  goose-flesh  in  his  hole, 
Despite  the  prison-straw :  bad  Carnival 
For  captives!  no  sliced  fry  for  him,  poor  Count! 


Carnival-time,  —  another  providence !  280 

The  town  a-swarm  with  strangers  to  amuse, 

To  edify,  to  give  one^s  name  and  fiame 

In  charge  of,  till  they  find,  some  future  day, 

Cintino  come  and  claim  it,  his  name  too. 

Pledge  of  the  pleasantness  they  owe  papa —  285 

Who  else  was  it  cured  Rome  of  her  ^at  qualms. 

When  she  must  needs  have  her  own  judgment? — ay. 

When  all  her  topping  wits  had  set  to  work. 

Pronounced  already  on  the  case :  mere  boys. 

Twice  Cineruegiolo^s  age  with  half  his  sense,  290 

As  good  as  tell  me,  when  I  cross  the  court, 

"Master  Arcangeli!"  (plucking  at  my  gown) 

"  We  can  predict,  we  comprehend  your  plav, 

We'll  help  you  save  your  client."    Tra-la-la! 

I  Ve  travelled  ground,  from  childhood  to  this  hour,  295 

To  have  the  town  anticipate  my  track  ? 

The  old  fox  takes  the  plain  and  velvet  path, 

The  young  hound's  predilection,  —  prints  the  dew, 

Don't  he,  to  suit  their  pulpy  pads  of  paw? 

No!    Burying  nose  deep  down  i'  the  briery  bush,  300 

Thus  I  defend  Count  Guido. 

Where  are  we  weak? 
First,  which  is  foremost  in  advantage  too. 
Our  murder,  —  we  call,  killing,  —  is  a  fact 
Confessed,  defended,  made  a  boast  of:  good! 
To  think  the  Fisc  claimed  use  of  torture  here,  305 

And  got  thereby  avowal  plump  and  plain 
That  gives  me  just  the  chance  I  wanted,  —  scope 
Not  for  brute-force  but  ingenuity, 
Explaining  matters,  not  denying  them  I 

One  may  dispute,  —  as  I  am  bound  to  do,  310 

And  shall,  —  validity  of  process  here : 
Inasmuch  as  a  noble  is  exempt 
From  torture  which  plebeians  undergo 
In  such  a  case :  for  law  is  lenient,  lax, 

Remits  the  torture  to  a  nobleman  315 

Unless  suspicion  be  of  twice  the  strength 
Attaches  to  a  man  born  vulgarly : 
We  don't  card  silk  with  comb  that  dresses  wool. 
Moreover  't  was  severity  undue 

In  this  case,  even  had  the  lord  been  lout.  320 

What  utters,  on  this  head,  our  oracle, 
Our  Farinacci,^  my  Gamaliel  ^  erst, 

^  Farinacci :    Prosper   Farinacci   (1544-  seventeenth  century.     In  1599  he  defended 

16x3),  auth<»'  of  a  volume  of  "  Variae  Quaes-  Beatrice  Cenci  on  the  charge  of  murdering 

tiones  '*  and  other  legal  treatises,  which  were  her  father, 

regarded  as  of  very  high  authority  during  the  *  GamaUtl :  see  Acts  xxii.  3. 


In  those  immortal  "  Questions  "?    This  I  quote : 

<<  Of  all  the  tools  at  Law^s  disposal,  sure 

That  named  Vigiliarum  is  the  best  —  325 

That  is,  the  worst  —  to  whoso  needs  must  bear : 

Lasting,  as  it  may  do,  from  some  seven  hours 

To  ten ;  (beyond  ten,  we've  no  precedent ; 

Certain  have  touched  their  ten,  but,  bah,  they  died!) 

It  does  so  efficaciously  convince,  330 

That,  —  speaking  by  much  observation  here, — 

Out  of  each  hundred  cases,  by  my  count. 

Never  I  knew  of  patients  beyond  four 

Withstand  its  taste,  or  less  than  ninety-six 

End  by  succumbing :  only  martyrs  four,  335 

Of  obstinate  silence,  guilty  or  no,  —  against 

Ninety-six  full  confessors,  innocent 

Or  otherwise,  —  so  shrewd  a  tool  have  we! 

No  marvel  either :  in  unwary  hands. 

Death  on  the  spot  is  no  rare  consequence :  340 

As  indeed  all  but  happened  in  this  case 

To  one  of  ourselves,  our  young  tough  peasant-friend 

The  accomplice  called  Baldeschi :  they  were  rough, 

Dosed  him  with  torture  as  you  drench  a  horse, 

Not  modify  your  treatment  to  a  man :  345 

So,  two  successive  days  he  fainted  dead. 

And  only  on  the  third  essay,  gave  up. 

Confessed  like  flesh  and  blood.    We  could  reclaim,  — 

Blockhead  Bottini  giving  cause  enough ! 

But  no,  —  we  '11  take  it  as  spontaneously  350 

Confessed :  we  '11  have  the  murder  beyond  doubt. 

Ah,  fortunate  (the  poet's  word^  reversed) 

Inasmuch  as  we  know  our  happiness! 

Had  the  antagonist  left  dubiety ,2 

Here  were  we  proving  murder  a  mere  myth,  355 

And  Guido  innocent,  ienorant,  absent,  —  ay, 

Absent!    He  was  —  why,  where  should  Christian  be? 

Engaged  in  visiting  his  proper  church, 

The  duty  of  us  all  at  Christmas-time, 

When  Caponsacchi,  the  seducer,  stung  360 

To  madness  by  his  relegation,  cast 

About  him  and  contrived  a  remedy 

In  murder :  since  opprobrium  broke  afresh. 

By  birth  o'  the  babe,  on  him  the  imputed  sire. 

He  it  was  quietly  sought  to  smother  up  365 

His  shame  and  theirs  together,  —  killed  the  three, 

And  fled  —  (go  seek  him  where  you  please  to  search) 

Just  at  the  time  when  Guido,  touched  by  grace, 

*  The  poefs  word:    see  Virgil,  "Geor-        *  Dubiety :  doubtfulness. 
S^cs,**  ii.  458. 


Devotions  ended,  hastened  to  the  spot, 

Meaning  to  pardon  his  convicted  wife,  370 

"  Neither  do  I  condemn  thee,  go  in  peace ! "  — 

And  thus  arrived  i'  the  nick  of  time  to  catch 

The  charee  o'  the  killing,  though  great-heartedly 

He  came  but  to  forgive  and  bnng  to  life. 

Doubt  ye  the  force  of  Christmas  on  the  soul  ?  375 

"  Is  thine  eye  evil  because  mine  is  good?" 

So,  doubtless,  had  I  needed  argue  here 

But  for  the  full  confession  round  and  sound ! 

Thus  might  you  wrone  some  kingly  alchemist, — 

Whose  concern  should  not  be  with  showing  brass  380 

Transmuted  into  gold,  but  triumphing, 

Rather,  about  his  gold  chaneed  out  of  brass. 

Not  vulfi;arly  to  the  mere  sight  and  touch, 

But  in  tne  idea,  the  spiritu^  display. 

The  apparition  buoyed  by  winged  words  385 

Hovering  above  its  birth-place  in  the  brain,  — 

Thus  would  you  wrong  this  excellent  personage 

Forced,  by  the  gross  need,  to  gird  apron  round, 

Plant  forge,  light  fire,  ply  bellows,  —  in  a  word, 

Demonstrate :  when  a  faulty  pipkin^s  crack  390 

May  disconcert  you  his  presumptive  truth ! 

Here  were  I  hanging  to  the  testimony 

Of  one  of  these  poor  rustics  —  four,  ye  gods! 

Whom  the  first  taste  of  friend  the  Fisc^'s  cord 

May  drive  into  undoing  my  whole  speech,  395 

Undoing,  on  his  birthday,  —  what  is  worse,  — 

My  son  and  heir! 

I  wonder,  all  the  same. 
Not  so  much  at  those  peasants^  lack  of  heart ; 
But  —  Guido  Francescnini,  nobleman. 

Bear  pain  no  better!    Everybody  knows  400 

It  used  once,  when  my  father  was  a  boy, 
To  form  a  proper,  nay,  important  point 
V  the  education  of  our  well-born  youth. 
That  they  took  torture  handsomely  at  need, 
Without  confessing  in  this  clownish  guise.  405 

Each  noble  had  his  rack  for  private  use. 
And  would,  for  the  diversion  of  a  guest, 
Bid  it  be  set  up  in  the  yard  of  arms. 
And  take  thereon  his  hour  of  exercise, — 
Command  the  varletry  stretch,  strain  their  best,  410 

While  friends  looked  on,  admired  my  lord  could  smile 
*Mid  tugging  which  had  caused  an  ox  to  roar. 
Men  are  no  longer  men! 

— And  advocates 



No  longer  Farinacci,  let  us  add. 

If  I  one  more  time  fly  from  point  proposed!  415 

So,  Vindication  —  here  begins  the  speech!  — 

Honoris  causa ;  thus  we  make  our  stand : 

Honor  in  us  had  injury,  we  prove: 

Or  if  we  fciil  to  prove  such  injury 

More  than  misprision  of  the  fact,  —  what  then?  420 

It  is  enough,  authorities  declare, 

If  the  result,  the  deed  in  question  now, 

Be  caused  by  confidence  that  injury 

Is  veritable  and  no  figment :  since. 

What,  though  proved  fancy  afterward,  seemed  hd  425 

At  the  time,  they  argue  shall  excuse  result. 

That  which  we  do,  persuaded  of  good  cause 

For  what  we  do,  hold  justifiable! —       ^ 

So  casuists  bid :  man,  bound  to  do  his  best. 

They  would  not  have  him  leave  that  best  undone  430 

And  mean  to  do  his  worst,  —  though  fuller  light 

Show  best  was  worst  and  worst  would  have  been  best. 

Act  by  the  present  light! — the^  ask  of  man. 

C/ifra  quod  hie  non  agitur,  besides. 

It  is  not  anyway  our  ousiness  here,  435 

De  probatione  adulteriiy 

To  prove  what  we  thought  crime  was  crime  indeed 

Ad  irrogandam  poenam^  and  require 

Its  punishment :  such  nowise  do  we  seek : 

Sed  ad  effectum^  but  \  is  our  concern,  440 

Excusandiy  here  to  simply  find  excuse, 

Occisorem,  for  who  did  the  killing-work, 

Et  ad  illius  defensionem^  (mark 

The  difference)  and  defend  the  man,  just  that! 

Quo  casu  levior  probatio  445 

Exuberaret^  to  which  end  far  lighter  proof 

Suffices  than  the  prior  case  would  claim : 

It  should  be  always  harder  to  convict, 

In  short,  than  to  establish  innocence. 

Therefore  we  shall  demonstrate  first  of  all  450 

That  Honor  is  a  gift  of  God  to  man 

Precious  beyond  compare :  which  natural  sense 

Of  human  rectitude  and  purity,  — 

Which  white,  man's  soul  is  bom  with,  —  brooks  no  touch : 

Therefore,  the  sensitivest  spot  of  all,  455 

Wounded  by  any  wafture  breathed  from  black, 

Is,  —  honor  within  honor,  —  like  the  eye 

Centred  i'  the  ball,  —  the  honor  of  our  wife. 

Touch  us  o'  the  pupil  of  our  honor,  then. 

Not  actually,  —  since  so  you  slay  outright,  —  460 

But  by  a  gesture  simulating  touch, 


Presumable  mere  menace  of  such  taint,  — 
This  were  our  warrant  for  eruptive  ire 
^To  whose  dominion  I  impose  no  end/*^ 

(Virgil,  now,  should  not  be  too  difficult  465 

To  Cinoncino,  —  say,  the  early  books. 
Pen,  truce  to  further  gambols!    Poscimur!  ^ 

Nor  can  revenge  of  injury  done  here 

To  the  honor  proved  the  life  and  soul  of  us. 

Be  too  excessive,  too  extravagant :  476 

Such  wrong  seeks  and  must  have  complete  revenge. 

Show  we  this,  first,  on  the  mere  natural  ground : 

Begin  at  the  beginning  and  proceed 

Incontrovertibly.    Theodoric, 

In  an  apt  sentence  Cassiodorus  *  cites,  475 

Propounds  for  basis  of  all  household  law  — 

I  hardly  recollect  it,  but  it  ends, 

^  Bird  mates  with  bird,  beast  genders  with  his  like. 

And  brooks  no  interference.^^        Bird  and  beast? 

The  very  insects  ...  if  they  wive  or  no,  480 

How  dare  I  say  when  Aristotle  *  doubts  ? 

But  the  presumption  is  thev  likewise  wive. 

At  least  the  nobler  sorts ;  for  take  the  bee 

As  instance,  —  copying  King  Solomon,  — 

Why  that  displeasure  of  the  bee  to  aught  485 

Which  savors  of  incontinency,  makes 

The  unchaste  a  very  horror  to  the  hive? 

Whence  comes  it  bees  obtain  their  epithet 

Of  castcB  apes,  notably  "  the  chaste  "  ? 

Because,  ingeniously  saith  Scalieer,^  490 

(The  young  saee,  —  see  his  book  of  Table-talk) 

^  Such  is  their  hatred  of  immodest  act. 

They  fall  upon  the  offender,  sting  to  death." 

I  mind  a  passage  much  confirmative 

r  the  Idyllist  *  (though  I  read  him  Latinized)  495 

**  Why  "  asks  a  shepherd,  "  is  this  bank  unfit 

For  celebration  of  our  vernal  loves  ? " 

*  To  whose  dominiont  etc. :  "  His  ego  nee  *  A  ristotle  :  celebrated  Greek  writer  on 
metas  rerum  nee  tempera  pono;  Imperium  philosophy,  ethies,  physics,  etc.,  384-323  B.C. 
sine  fine  dedi"  (Virgil,  "^neid,"  L  278,  279).  »  Scaliger  :  Joseph  Justice,  son  of  Julius 

*  Poscimur :  something  is  expected  of  its.  Caesar  Scaliger,  both  eminent  men  of  leam- 

*  Cassiodorus  :  a  Roman  historian,  states-  ing. 

man,  and  monk  who  lived  about  468.    He  was         ^  Idyllist :  Theocritus,  a  Greek  poet  who 

raised  by  Theodoric,  King  of  the  Ostrogoths,  flourished  in  the  third  century  B.C.    He  wrote 

to  the  highest  offices.    He  was  among  the  a   number  of  idylls  (little  pictures),  princi- 

first  of  literary  monks.    His  books  were  much  pally  portraying  country  life, 
read  in  the  Middle  Ages.    See  note,  I.  asS. 


^^  Oh  swain/^  returns  the  instructed  shepherdess^ 

<<  Bees  swarm  here,  and  would  quick  resent  our  wannth!  *' 

Only  cold-blooded  fish  lack  instinct  here,  500 

Nor  gain  nor  guard  connubiality : 

But  beasts,  quadrupedal,  mammiferous, 

Do  credit  to  their  beasthood :  witness  him 

That  iClian  ^  cites,  the  noble  elephant, 

(Or  if  not  iClian,  somebody  as  sage)  505 

Who  seeing,  much  offence  beneath  his  nose, 

His  master^s  friend  exceed  in  courtesy 

The  due  allowance  to  his  master^s  wife. 

Taught  them  good  manners  and  kiUed  both  at  once, 

Makmg  his  master  and  the  world  admire.  510 

Indubitably,  then,  that  master^s  self, 

Favored  by  circumstance,  had  done  the  same 

Or  else  stood  clear  rebuked  by  his  own  beast. 

AdeOj  ut  qui  honorem  spernit^  thus. 

Who  values  his  own  honor  not  a  straw,  —  515 

Et  non  recuperare  curat,  nor 

Labors  by  might  and  main  to  salve  its  wound, 

Se  ukiscendoy  by  revenging  him, 

Nil  differ  at  a  belluis,  is  a  brute, 

Quinimo  irrationabilior  520 

Ipsismet  belluiSy  nay,  contrariwise. 

Much  more  irrational  than  brutes  themselves, 

Should  be  considered,  reputetur  I    How  ? 

If  a  poor  animal  feel  honor  smart. 

Taught  by  blind  instinct  nature  plants  in  him,  525 

Shall  man,  —  confessed  creation^s  master-stroke. 

Nay,  intellectual  glory,  nay,  a  god, 

Nay,  of  the  nature  of  my  Judges  here, — 

ShaU  man  prove  the  insensible,  the  block. 

The  blot  o^  the  earth  he  crawls  on  to  disgrace?  530 

(Come,  that  *s  both  solid  and  poetic!)    Man 

Derogate,  live  for  the  low  tastes  alone, 

Mean  creeping  cares  about  the  animal  life? 

Absit'^  such  homage  to  vile  flesh  and  blood! 

(May  Gigia  have  remembered,  nothing  stings  53J 

Fried  liver  out  of  its  monotony 
Of  richness,  like  a  root  of  fennel,  chopped 
Fine  with  the  parsley :  parsley-sprigs,  I  said  — 
Was  there  need  I  should  say  "and  fennel  too"? 
But  no,  she  cannot  have  been  so  obtuse!  540 

To  our  argument!    The  fennel  will  be  chopped.) 

1  Mlian  :  in  his  "  De  Natura  Animalium/'  xi.  25.  *  Ahiit :  away  I 


From  beast  to  man  next  mount  we  —  ay,  but,  mind, 

Still  mere  man,  not  yet  Christian,  —  that,  in  time ! 

Not  too  fast,  mark  you !    T  is  on  Heathen  grounds 

We  next  defend  our  act :  then,  fairly  urge  ---  545 

If  this  were  done  of  old,  in  a  green  tree, 

Allowed  in  the  Spring  rawness  of  our  kind, 

What  may  be  licensed  in  the  Autumn  dry 

And  ripe,  the  latter  harvest-tide  of  man? 

If,  with  his  poor  and  primitive  half-lights,  550 

The  Pag^n,  whom  our  devils  served  tor  gods, 

Could  stigmatize  the  breach  of  marriage-vow 

As  that  which  blood,  blood  only  might  efface,  — 

Absolve  the  husband,  outraged,  whose  revenge 

Anticipated  law,  plied  sword  himself, —  555 

How  with  the  Christian  in  full  blaze  of  noon? 

Shall  not  he  rather  double  penalty, 

Multipl)r  vengeance,  than,  degenerate, 

Let  privilege  be  minished,  droop,  decay  ? 

Therefore  set  forth  at  large  the  ancient  law!  560 

Superabundant  the  examples  be 

To  pick  and  choose  from.    The  Athenian  Code, 

Solon's,^  the  name  is  serviceable,  —  then. 

The  Laws  of  the  Twelve  Tables,*  that  fifteenth,  — 

"  Romulus  "  *  likewise  rolls  out  round  and  large ;  565 

The  Julian  * ;  the  Cornelian  ^ ;  Gracchus'  Law  • ; 

So  old  a  chime,  the  bells  ring  of  themselves  \ 

Spreti  can  set  that  going  if  he  please, 

I  point  you,  for  my  part,  the  belfry  plain, 

Intent  to  rise  from  dusk,  diluculum^  570 

Into  the  Christian  day  shall  broaden  next. 

First,  the  fit  compliment  to  His  Holiness 

Happily  reigning :  then  sustain  the  point  — 

All  that  was  long  a^o  declared  as  law 

By  the  natural  revelation,  stands  confirmed  575 

By  Apostle  and  Evangelist  and  Saint,  — 

1  The  Athenian  Code^  Solon*s:  see  note,    Among  these  was  one,  Lex  Julia  de  adul- 
I.  3x9.  teris,  which  punished  adultery.     The  refer- 

*  The  Laws  of  the  Twelve  Tables  :  this    ence  is  probably  to  this.     See  I.  234. 

was  the  first  Roman  code  of  laws  and  applied  *  Cornelian  i  laws  passed  under  the  Die- 
to  both  Plebs  and  Patricians.  It  was  drawn  tator  Lucius  Cornelius  SuUa.  The  law  meant 
up  45X  B.C.  by  ten  Decemvirs  elected  for  the  here  is  propably  Lex  Cornelia  de  Sic  ariis^ 
purpose,  and  was  engraved  on  twelve  tables  a  law  referring  to  murderers.  See  note,  I.  333. 
of  brass,  '  Gracchus'   Law :     Caius    Sempronius 

*  Romulut :  toe  note,  I.  aao.  Gracchus,  the  Roman  Tribune,  who   madt 

*  The  yulimn :    laws  passed  during  the  many  laws. 

rtiga  of  Augtistus  were  called  Leges  Julia        ^  Diluculum  :  daybreak. 
JMdkiormm  pubUeorum    et  prvoatorum. 

±g4  THE  R/ATG  APTD  TH£  BOOK. 

To-wit  —  that  Honor  is  man^s  supreme  ^pod. 

Why  should  I  baulk  Saint  Jerome  ^  of  his  phrase? 

Ubi  honor  non  esty  where  no  honor  is, 

Idi  contemptus  est\  and  where  contempt,  580 

Ibiinjuria  frequens;  and  where  that, 

The  frequent  injury,  ibi  et  indignatio; 

And  where  the  indignation,  Ufi  quies 

NuUa :  and  where  there  is  no  quietude. 

Why,  idi,  there,  the  mind  is  often  cast  585 

Down  from  the  heights  where  it  proposed  to  dwell, 

Afgns  a  proposito  saj^e  dejicitur. 

And  naturally  the  mind  is  so  cast  down. 

Since  harder  't  is,  quum  difficUius  sit^  ^ 

Iram  cokibere,  to  coerce  one's  wrath,  590 

Quam  mir acuta  facer e,  than  work  miracles, — 

So  Gregory^  smiles  in  his  First  Dialogue. 

Whence  we  infer,  the  ingenuous  soul,  the  man 

Who  makes  esteem  of  honor  and  repute. 

Whenever  honor  and  repute  are  touched,  595 

Arrives  at  term  of  fury  and  despair. 

Loses  all  guidance  from  the  reason-check : 

As  in  delirium  or  a  frenzy-fit. 

Nor  fury  nor  despair  he  satiates,  —  no. 

Not  even  if  he  attain  the  impossible,  600 

Overturn  the  hinges  of  the  universe 

To  annihilate  —  not  whoso  caused  the  smart 

Solely,  the  author  simply  of  his  pain. 

But  the  place,  the  memory,  vituperity 

O'  the  shame  and  scorn :  quia, — says  Solomon,  605 

(The  Holv  Spirit  speaking  by  his  mouth 

In  ProverDs,  the  sixth  chapter  near  the  end) 

—  Because,  the  zeal  and  fury  of  a  man, 

Zelus  et  furor  viri,  will  not  spare, 

Non  parcety  in  the  day  of  his  revenge,  610 

In  die  vindictcBy  nor  will  acquiesce, 

Nee  acquiescety  through  a  person's  prayers, 

Cujusdam  precibus,  —  nee  suscipiet^ 

Nor  yet  take,  pro  redemptione^  for 

Redemption,  cbna  pturium,  gifts  of  friends,  615 

Mere  money-payment  to  compound  for  ache. 

Who  recognizes  not  my  client's  case? 

Whereto,  as  strangely  consentaneous  ^  here. 

Adduce  Saint  Bernard*  in  the  Epistle  writ 

*  Saint  Jerome  :  a  Catholic  writer  of  the    logues  with  Peter  the  Deacon  on  the  Lives 
fifth  century  distinguished  for  his  zeal  against    and  Miracles  of  the  Italian  Saints." 

the  Christians.     Died  420.  >  Consentaneous  :  consistent  with. 

*  Gregory  :  Pope  Gregory  the  Great  (550-         *  Saint  Bernard  :  The  celebrated  founder 
640).     Among  other  things  he  wrote  "  Dia-    of  the  order  of  Bemardines  (109X-ZZ53).    His 



To  Robertulus,  his  nephew :  ^  Too  much  grief,  6ao 

Dolor  quippe  nimius  non  deliberate 

Does  not  excogitate  propriety, 

Non  verecundatury  nor  knows  shame  at  all, 

Non  consulit  rationemy  nor  consults 

Reason,  non  dignitatis  metuit  625 

Damnum^  nor  dreads  the  loss  of  dignity ; 

Modum  et  ordinenty  order  and  the  mode, 

Ignoraty  it  ignores  " :  why,  trait  for  trait, 

Was  ever  portrait  limned  so  like  the  life? 

(By  Cavalier  Maratta,^  shall  I  say  ? 

I  hear  he  ^s  first  in  reputation  now.) 

Yes,  that  of  Samson  in  the  Sacred  Text 

That  ^s  not  so  much  the  portrait  as  the  man! 

Samson  in  Gaza  was  the  antetype 

Of  Guido  at  Rome :  observe  the  Nazarite!  635 

Blinded  he  was,  —  an  easy  thing  to  bear : 

Intrepidly  he  took  imprisonment. 

Gyves,  stripes  and  daily  labor  at  the  mill : 

But  when  he  found  himself,  i*  the  public  place, 

Destined  to  make  the  common  people  sport,  640 

Disdain  burned  up  with  such  an  impetus 

r  the  breast  of  him  that,  all  the  man  one  fire, 

Moriatury  roared  he,  let  my  souPs  self  die, 

Anima  mea,  with  the  Philistines! 

So,  pulled  down  pillar,  roof,  and  death  and  all,*  645 

MuUosque  plures  inter fecity  ay. 

And  many  more  he  killed  thus,  moriensy 

Dying,  quam  vivuSy  than  in  his  whole  life, 

Occideraty  he  ever  killed  before. 

Are  these  things  writ  for  no  example.  Sirs?  650 

One  instance  more,  and  let  me  see  who  doubts! 

Our  Lord  Himself,  made  all  of  mansuetude,* 

Sealine  the  sum  of  sufferance  up,  received 

Opprobrium,  contumely  and  buneting 

Without  complaint :  but  when  He  found  Himself  655 

Touched  in  His  honor  never  so  little  for  once. 

Then  outbroke  indignation  pent  before  — 

"  Honor  em  metitn  nemini  dabo  I "    "  No, 

My  honor  I  to  nobody  will  give! " 

And  certainly  the  example  so  hath  wrought,  660 

That  whosoever,  at  the  proper  worth. 

Apprises  worldly  honor  and  repute, 

Esteems  it  nobler  to  die  honored  man 

works  were  published  in  Paris  by  Gaume        *  So, gutted  down  pillar ^  tic.  \  see  Judges 
(1835-X840).  xvi.  29. 

^  Maratta  :  see  note,  III.  59.  *  Mansuetude  :  gentleness. 


Beneath  Mannaia,  than  live  centuries 

Disgraced  in  the  eye  o^  the  world.    We  find  Saint  Paul  665 

No  recreant  to  this  faith  delivered  once : 

"  Far  worthier  were  it  that  I  died,"  criea  hey 

Expedit  mihi  magis  tnori^  "  than 

That  any  one  should  make  my  glory  void," 

Quam  ut  gloriam  meam  quis  evacuitl  (fjo 

See,  ad  Corinthienses :  whereupon 

Saint  Ambrose  makes  a  comment  with  much  firuit| 

Doubtless  my  Judges  long  since  laid  to  hearty 

So  I  desist  from  bringing  forward  here. 

(I  canH  quite  recollect  it.) 

Have  I  proved  675 

Satts  superque^  both  enough  and  to  spare, 
That  Revelation  old  and  new  admits 
The  natural  man  may  effervesce  in  ire, 
O'erflood  earth,  o'erfroth  heaven  with  foamy  rage^ 
At  the  first  puncture  to  his  self-respect?  680 

Then,  Sirs,  this  Christian  dogma,  this  law-bud 
Full-blown  now,  soon  to  bask  the  absolute  flower 
Of  Papal  doctrine  in  our  blaze  of  day,  — 
Bethink  you,  shall  we  miss  one  promise-streak, 
One  doubtful  birth  of  dawn  crepuscular,^  685 

One  dew-drop  comfort  to  humanity, 
Now  that  the  chalice  teems  with  noonday  wine? 
Yea,  argue  Molinists  who  bar  revenge  — 
Referring  just  to  what  makes  out  our  easel 
Under  old  dispensation,  argue  they,  690 

The  doom  of  the  adulterous  wife  was  death, 
Stoning  by  Moses'  law.*    "  Nay,  stone  her  not, 
Put  her  away!"  next  legislates  our  Lord;* 
And  last  of  all,  "  Nor  yet  divorce  a  wife! " 
Ordains  the  Church,  "  she  typifies  ourself,  695 

The  Bride  no  fault  shall  cause  to  fall  from  Christ.^' 
Then,  as  no  jot  or  tittle  of  the  Law 
Has  passed  away  —  which  who  presumes  to  doubt? 
As  not  one  word  of  Christ  is  rendered  vain  — 
Which,  could  it  be  though  heaven  and  earth  should  pass  ?      700 
—  Where  do  I  find  my  proper  punishment 
For  my  adulterous  wife,  I  humbly  ask 
Of  my  infallible  Pope,  —  who  now  remits 
Even  the  divorce  allowed  by  Christ  in  lieu 
Of  lapidation  Moses  licensed  me  ?  705 

'  Crepuscular  :  glimmering.  '  Put  her  mway,  etc.  i  mc  Matt,  t«  3a. 

*  Stoning  by  Moses'  law  :  see  Deut  xxii. 



The  Gospel  checks  the  Law  which  throws  the  stoney 

The  Church  tears  the  divorce-bill  Gospel  grants : 

Shall  wives  sin  and  enjoy  impunity  ? 

What  profits  me  the  fulness  of  the  days. 

The  final  dispensation,  I  demand,  710 

Unless  Law,  Gospel  and  the  Church  subjoin 

"But  who  hath  barred  thee  primitive  revenge, 

Which,  like  fire  damped  and  dammed  up,  bums  more  fierce? 

Use  thou  thy  natural  privilege  of  man. 

Else  wert  thou  found  like  those  old  ingrate  Jews,  715 

Despite  the  manna-banquet  on  the  board, 

A-longing  after  melons,  cucumbers, 

And  such  like  trash  of  Egypt  left  behind!  ^ 

(There  was  one  melon  had  improved  our  soup : 

But  did  not  Cinoncino  need  the  rind  720 

To  make  a  boat  with  ?    So  I  seem  to  think.) 

Law,  Gospel  and  the  Church  —  from  these  we  leap 

To  the  very  last  revealment,  easy  rule 

Befitting  the  well-born  and  thorough-bred 

O^  the  happy  day  we  live  in,  not  the  dark  725 

O^  the  early  rude  and  acorn-eating  race.^ 

**  Behold,"  quoth  James,^  "  we  bridle  in  a  horse 

And  turn  his  body  as  we  would  thereby! " 

Yea,  but  we  change  the  bit  to  suit  the  growth. 

And  rasp  our  coitus  jaw  with  a  rugged  spike  730 

We  hasten  to  remit  our  managed  steed 

Who  wheels  round  at  persuasion  of  a  touch. 

Civilization  bows  to  decency. 

The  acknowledged  use  and  wont :  't  is  manners,  —  mild 

But  yet  imperative  law,  —  which  make  the  man.  735 

Thus  do  we  pay  the  proper  compliment 

To  rank  and  that  society  of  Rome, 

Hath  so  obliged  us  by  its  interest, 

Taken  our  client's  part  instinctively. 

As  unaware  defending  its  own  cause.  740 

What  dictum  doth  Society  lay  down 

r  the  case  of  one  who  hath  a  faithless  wife? 

Wherewithal  should  the  husband  cleanse  his  way  ? 

Be  patient  and  forgive  ?    Oh,  language  fails,  — 

Shnnks  from  depicturing  his  turpitude!  745 

For  if  wronged  husband  raise  not  hue  and  cry, 

^  The  early  rude  and  acorn-eating  race :         *  Behold ^     quoth     James:     sec    James 
early  Greek  myths  declare  that  the  first  men    iii.  3. 
were  bom  from  oaks,  and  that  acorns  were 
their  principal  ibod. 


Quod  si  fnaritus  de  adult erio  non 

Conquer eretuTy  he*s  presumed  a — fob! 

Presumitur  Uno :  so,  complain  he  must. 

But  how  complain ?    At  your  tribunal,  lords?  750 

Far  weightier  challenge  suits  your  sense,  I  wot! 

You  sit  not  to  have  gentlemen  propose 

Questions  gentility  can  itself  discuss. 

Did  not  you  prove  that  to  our  brother  Paul? 

The  Abate,  quum  judiciaUter  755 

ProsequeretuTy  when  he  tried  the  law, 

Guidonis  causam,  in  Count  Guidons  case^ 

Accidit  ipsiy  this  befeU  himself, 

Quod  risum  moverit  et  cachinnosy  that 

He  moved  to  mirth  and  cachinnation,  all  760 

Or  nearly  iXL^^ere  in  omnibus 

Etiam  sensatts  et  cordatiSj  men 

Strong-sensed,  sound-hearted,  nay,  the  very  Court, 

Ipsismet  injudicibusy  I  might  add, 

Non  tamen  dicam.     In  a  cause  like  this,  765 

So  multiplied  were  reasons  pro  and  con^ 

Delicate,  intertwisted  and  obscure. 

That  Law  refused  loan  of  a  finger-tip 

To  unravel,  re-adjust  the  hopeless  twine. 

Since,  half-a-dozen  steps  outside  Law^s  seat,  770 

There  stood  a  foolish  trifler  with  a  tool 

A-danele  to  no  purpose  b}r  his  side. 

Had  clearly  cut  the  embroilment  in  a  trice. 

Asserunt  enim  unanimiter 

Doctoresy  for  the  Doctors  all  assert,  775 

That  husbands,  quod  maritiy  must  be  held 

Vilesy  cornuti  reputantury  vile. 

Fronts  branching  forth  a  florid  infamy. 

Si  propriis  manibusy  if  with  their  own  hands, 

Non  sumunty  they  fail  straight  to  take  revenge,  780 

Vindtctaniy  but  expect  the  deed  be  done 

By  the  Court  —  expectant  illam  fieri 

Per  judicesy  qui  summopere  ridenty  which 

Gives  an  enormous  guffaw  for  reply, 

Et  cachinnantur ,     For  he  ran  away,  785 

Deliquit  enimyjust  that  he  might  'scape 

The  censure  of'^both  counsellors  and  crowd, 

C/t  vulgi  et  doctorum  evitaret 

Censuraniy  and  lest  so  he  superadd 

To  loss  of  honor  ignominy  too,  790 

Et  sic  ne  istam  quoque  ignominiam 

Amisso  honori  superadderet. 

My  lords,  my  lords,  the  inconsiderate  step 

Was  —  we  referred  ourselves  to  Law  at  all! 


Twit  me  not  with  ^'  Law  else  had  punbhed  you!  ^  795 

Each  punishment  of  the  extra-legal  step. 

To  which  the  high-born  preferably  revert. 

Is  ever  for  some  oversight,  some  slip 

r  the  taking  vengeance,  not  for  vengeance*  self. 

A  good  thing,  done  unhandsomely,  turns  ill ;  800 

And  never  yet  lacked  ill  the  law^s  rebuke. 

For  preenant  instance,  let  us  contemplate 

The  lu(£  of  Leonardus,  —  see  at  large 

Of  Sicily^s  Decisions  sixty-first. 

This  Leonard  finds  his  wife  is  false :  what  then?  805 

He  makes  her  own  son  snare  her,  and  entice 

Out  of  the  town  walls  to  a  private  walk 

Wherein  he  slays  her  with  commodity. 

They  find  her  body  half-devoured  by  dogs : 

Leonard  is  tried,  convicted,  punished,  sent  810 

To  labor  in  the  galleys  seven  years  long : 

Why?    For  the  murder?    Nay,  but  for  the  mode! 

Mains  modus  occidendiy  ruled  the  Court, 

An  ugly  mode  of  killing,  nothing  more! 

Another  fructuous  sample,  —  see  ^^De  Re  815 

Criminaliy'*  in  Matthaeus*^  divine  piece. 

Another  husband,  in  no  better  plight, 

Simulates  absence,  thereby  tempts  his  wife ; 

On  whom  he  falls,  out  of  sly  ambuscade, 

Backed  by  a  brother  of  his,  and  both  of  them  820 

Armed  to  the  teeth  with  arms  that  law  had  blamed. 

Nimis  dolosCy  overwilily, 

Fuisse  operatufHy  did  they  work, 

Pronounced  the  law :  had  all  been  £airly  done 

Law  had  not  found  him  worthy,  as  she  did,  825 

Of  four  years'  exile.    Why  cite  more?    Enough 

Is  good  as  a  feast — (unless  a  birthday-feast 

For  one's  Cinuccio)  so,  we  finish  here. 

My  lords,  we  rather  need  defend  ourselves 

Inasmuch  as,  for  a  twinkling  of  an  eye,  830 

We  hesitatingly  appealed  to  law,  — 

Than  need  deny  that,  on  mature  advice, 

We  blushingly  bethought  us,  bade  revenge 

Back  to  its  simple  proper  private  way 

Of  decent  self-dealt  gentlemanly  death.  835 

Judges,  here  is  the  law,  and  here  beside. 

The  testimony!    Look  to  it! 

Pause  and  breathe! 
So  far  is  only  too  plain ;  we  must  watch : 
Bottini  will  scarce  hazard  an  attack 

*  Maithaut :  there  was  a  Dutch  jurist  of  this  name  born  at  Utrecht  i6'^s«  ^^^  v\x<^. 


Here :  best  anticipate  the  fellow^s  play,  840 

And  guard  the  weaker  places — warily  ask. 

What  if  considerations  of  a  sort, 

Reasons  of  a  kind,  arise  from  out  the  strange 

Peculiar  unforeseen  new  circumstance 

Of  this  our  (candor  owns)  abnormal  act,  845 

To  bar  the  right  of  us  revenging  so  ? 

"  Impunity  were  otherwise  your  meed : 

Go  slay  your  wife  and  welcome," — may  be  urged; -» 

"  But  why  the  innocent  old  couple  slay, 

Pietro,  Violante  ?    You  may  do  enough,  850 

Not  too  much,  not  exceed  the  golden  mean : 

Neither  brute-beast  nor  Pagan,  Gentile,  Jew, 

Nor  Christian,  no  nor  votanst  of  the  mode; 

Is  justified  to  push  revenge  so  far." 

No,  indeed?    Why,  thou  very  sciolist!  *  855 

The  actual  wrong,  Pompilia  seemed  to  do, 

Was  virtual  wrong  done  by  the  parents  here — 

Imposing  her  upon  us  as  their  child  — 

Themselves  allow :  then,  her  fault  was  their  fiiult, 

Her  punishment  be  theirs  accordingly!  860 

But  wait  a  little,  sneak  not  off  so  soon! 

Was  this  cheat  solely  harm  to  Guido,  pray  ? 

The  precious  couple  you  call  innocent, — 

Why,  they  were  felons  that  Law  failed  to  clutch, 

Qui  ut  fraudarent^  who  that  they  might  rob,  865 

Legitime  vocatos,  folk  law  called. 

Ad  fidei  commissum,  true  heirs  to  the  Trust, 

Partum  supposuerunt^  feigned  this  birth, 

Immemores  reos  factos  esse,  blind 

To  the  fact  that,  guiltjj,  they  incurred  thereby,  870 

UUimi  supplicii,  hanging  or  what's  worse. 

Do  you  blame  us  that  we  turn  Law's  instruments. 

Not  mere  self-seekers,  —  mind  the  public  weal, 

Nor  make  the  private  good  our  sole  concern? 

That  having  —  shall  I  say  —  secured  a  thief,  875 

Not  simply  we  recover  from  his  pouch 

The  stolen  article  our  property, 

But  also  pounce  upon  our  neighbor's  purse 

We  opportunely  find  reposing  there, 

And  do  him  justice  while  we  right  ourselves  ?  880 

He  owes  us,  for  our  part,  a  drubbing  say, 

But  owes  our  neighbor  just  a  dance  i'  the  air 

Under  the  gallows :  so,  we  throttle  him. 

That  neighbor  's  Law,  that  couple  are  the  Thie^ 

^  Sciolist :  a  smattexer. 


We  are  the  over  readv  to  help  Law  —  885 

Zeal  of  her  house  hatn  eaten  us  up :  for  which. 

Can  it  be,  Law  intends  to  eat  up  us, 

Crudum  Priamumy  devour  poor  Priam  raw, 

(T  was  Jupiter^s  own  joke)  with  babes  to  boot, 

Priamique pisinhos^  in  Homeric  phrase?  890 

Shame! and  so  ends  my  period  prettily. 

But  even, — prove  the  p>air  not  culpable, 
Free  as  unborn  babe  from  connivance  at, 
Participation  in,  their  daughter's  £ault : 

Ours  the  mistake.     Is  that  a  rare  event?  895 

Non  semely  it  is  anything  but  rare, 
In  contingentia  factiy  that  by  chance, 
Impunes  evaserunt^  go  scot-free, 
Quiy  such  well-meaning  people  as  ourselves, 
Justo  dolore  moti^  who  aggrieved  900 

With  cause,  apposuerunt  manus,  lay 
Rough  hands,  in  innocentesy  on  wrong  heads. 
Cite  we  an  illustrative  case  in  point : 
Mulier  Smirnea  qucBdamy  good  my  lords, 
A  gentlewoman  lived  in  Smyrna  once,  905 

Virum  etfilium  ex  eo  conceptumy  who 
Both  husband  and  her  son  begot  by  him 
Killed,  inter fecer at y  exquOy  because, 
Virfilium  suum  perdideraty  her  spouse 
Had  been  beforehand  with  her,  killed  her  son,  910 

Matrimonii  primiy  of  a  previous  bed. 
Deinde  accusata,  then  accused, 
Apud  DolabellafHy  before  him  that  sat 
Proconsul,  nee  duabus  ccedibus 

Contaminatam  liber arey  nor  915 

To  liberate  a  woman  doubly-dyed 
With  murder,  voluity  made  he  up  his  mind, 
Nee  condemnarey  nor  to  doom  to  death, 
Justo  dohre  impulsam^  one  impelled 

By  just  grief;  sed  remisity  but  sent  her  up  920 

Ad  Areopagunty^  to  the  Hill  of  Mars, 
Sapientissimorum  judicum 
Ccetunty  to  that  assembly  of  the  sage 
Paralleled  only  by  my  judges  here ; 

Ubiy  cognito  de  causa^  where,  the  cause  925 

Well  weighed,  responsum  esty  they  gave  reply, 

^  Crudunt  Priamnm   .  .   .   Priamique  translation    reads:     "Let   Priam  bleed  .  .  . 

ftstnnos  :  a  line  from  a  translation  of  Homer  Bleed  all  his  sons  "  ("  Iliad/'  iv.  55). 
by  Attius  Labeo.    The  translation  as  a  whole        *  Ad  Artopagum  :  the  Areopagus  was  a 

is  lost,  but  this  line  ("  Iliad,"  ir.  35)  is  pre*  hill  in  Athens  near  the  Acropolis,  where  th« 

SCnred  by  a  scholiast  on  P^rsius,      Pope's  Supreme  Court  held  its  session^. 


Ut  ipsa  et  accusatory  that  both  sides 

O^  the  suit,  redirentj  should  come  back  again, 

Post  centum  annos,  after  a  hundred  years, 

For  judgment ;  et  sic,  by  which  sage  decree,  930 

Duplici  parricidio  rea,  one 

Convicted  of  a  double  parricide, 

Quamvis  etiam  innocenteniy  though  in  truth 

Out  of  the  pair,  one  innocent  at  least 

She,  occidisset,  plainly  had  put  to  death,  935 

Undequaque,  yet  she  altogether  ^scaped, 

Evasit  impunis.    See  the  case  at  length 

In  Valerius,  fittingly  styled  Maximus^ 

That  eighth  book  of  his  Memorable  Facts. 

Nor  Cyriacus  ^  cites  beside  the  mark :  940 

Similtter  uxor  quce  mandaveraty 

Just  so,  a  lady  who  had  taken  care, 

Homicidium  viriy  that  her  lord  be  killed, 

Ex  denegaiione  debiti, 

For  denegation  of  a  certain  debt,  945 

MatrimonialiSy  he  was  loth  to  pay, 

Fuit  pecuniaria  mulcta,  was 

Amerced  in  a  pecuniary  mulct, 

Punita,  et  adpcenaniy  and  to  pains, 

Temporalem,  for  a  certain  space  of  time,  950 

In  monasterioy  in  a  convent. 


In  monasterio !    He  mismanages 

In  with  the  ablative,  the  accusative! 

I  had  hoped  to  have  hitched  the  villain  into  verse 

For  a  gift,  this  very  day,  a  complete  list  955 

O'  the  prepositions  each  with  proper  case, 

Telling  a  story,  long  was  in  my  head. 

**  What  prepositions  take  the  accusative  ? 

Ad  to  or  at — who  saw  the  cat?  —  down  to 

Oby  for,  because  of,  keep  her  claws  off! "    Tush !  960 

Law  in  a  man  takes  the  whole  liberty : 

The  muse  is  fettered :  just  as  Ovid  found!*) 

And  now,  sea  widens  and  the  coast  is  clear. 

What  of  the  dubious  act  you  bade  excuse  } 

Surely  things  broaden,  brighten,  till  at  length  965 

Remains  —  so  far  from  act  that  needs  defence — 

*  Valerius  Maximus  :  a  Latin  writer  of  zona,  in  Syria  (died  1817).    He  wrote  homi- 

the  first  century  who  made  a  collection  of  his-  lies,  canons,  and  epistles, 
torical  anecdotes  called  "Books  of  Memo-         ^  As  Ovid  found :  Ovid  scribbled  verse  in 

rable  Deeds  and  Utterances.**  the  margin  of  his  paper,  as  a  youth,  when  he 

'  Cyriacus  :  monk  of  the  convent  of  Bi-  ought  to  have  been  framing  legal  orations. 


Apology  to  make  for  act  delayed 

One  minute,  let  alone  eight  mortal  months 

Of  hesitation !    "  Why  procrastinate  ?  " 

(Out  with  it  my  Bottinius,  ease  thyself!)  970 

"  Right,  promptly  done,  is  twice  right :  right  delayed 

Turns  wrong.    We  grant  you  should  have  killed  your  wife. 

But  killed  o^  the  moment,  at  the  meeting  her 

In  company  with  the  priestt:  then  did  the  tongue 

O'  the  Brazen  Head  ^  give  license,  *  Time  is  now ! '  975 

Wait  to  make  mind  up  ?    *  Time  is  past  ^  it  peals. 

Friend,  you  are  competent  to  mastery 

O^  the  passions  that  confessedly  explain 

An  outbreak :  vou  allow  an  interval. 

And  then  break  out  as  if  timers  clock  still  clanged.  980 

You  have  forfeited  your  chance,  and  flat  you  fiul 

Into  the  commonplace  category 

Of  men  bound  to  go  softly  all  their  days. 

Obeying  Law." 

Now,  which  way  make  response  ? 
What  was  the  answer  Guido  gave,  himself?  985 

— That  so  to  argue  came  of  ignorance 
How  honor  bears  a  wound.    "  For,  wound,"  said  he, 
^^  My  body,  and  the  smart  soon  mends  and  ends : 
While,  wound  my  soul  where  honor  sits  and  rules, 
Longer  the  sufferance,  stronger  grows  the  pain,  990 

Being  ex  incontinentia  fresh  as  first.^^ 
But  try  another  tack,  urge  common  sense 
By  way  of  contrast :  say — Too  true,  my  lords! 
We  did  demur,  awhile  did  hesitate  : 

Since  husband  sure  should  let  a  scruple  speak  995 

Ere  he  slay  wife,  —  for  his  own  safety,  lords! 
Carpers  abound  in  this  misjudging  world : 
Moreover,  there  's  a  nicety  in  law 
That  seems  to  justify  them  should  they  carp. 
Suppose  the  source  of  injury  a  son, —  1000 

Father  may  slay  such  son  yet  run  no  risk : 
Why  graced  with  such  a  privilege  ?    Because 
A  father  so  incensed  with  his  own  child. 
Or  must  have  reason,  or  believe  he  has : 
Quia  semper^  seeing  that  in  such  event,  1005 

Presumitur,  the  law  is  bound  suppose, 
Quod  capiat  pater ^  that  the  sire  must  take, 
Bonum  consilium  profilio^ 

*  Brazen  Head  :    it  was  believed  in  the  of  the  first  half  hour  the  head  said, "  Time  is  " ; 

Middle  Ages  that  a  brazen  head  could  be  at  the  end  of  the  second,  "  Time  was " ;  at  the 

made  which  would  speak.      Roger  Bacon  is  end  of  the  third, "  Time 's  past."     Then  it  fell 

said  to  have  accomplished  this  feat.    When  down  with  a  crash  and  was  shivered  in  pieces, 
finished,  a  man  was  set  to  watch.    At  the  end 


The  best  course  as  to  what  befits  his  boy, 

Through  instinct,  ex  instinctu,  of  mere  love^  loio 

AmoriSj  and,  paterni,  fatherhood ; 

Quam  confidentiam^  which  confidence, 

Non  habet,  law  declines  to  enteftain, 

De  viro^  of  the  husband :  where  finds  he 

An  instinct  that  compels  him  love  his  wife?  1015 

Rather  is  he  presumably  her  foe. 

So,  let  him  ponder  long  in  this  bad  world 

Ere  do  the  simplest  act  of  justice. 

Again  —  and  here  we  brush  Bottini^s  breast  — 
Object  you,  "  See  the  danger  of  delay!  1020 

Suppose  a  man  murdered  my  friend  last  month : 
Had  I  come  up  and  killed  him  for  his  pains 
In  rage,  I  had  done  ri^ht,  allows  the  law : 
I  meet  him  now  and  kill  him  in  cold  bloody 
I  do  wrong,  equally  allows  the  law :  1025 

Wherein  do  actions  differ,  yours  and  mine?" 
In  plenitudine  intellect  us  es  ? 
Hast  thy  wits,  Fisc?    To  take  such  slayer^s  life, 
Returns  it  life  to  thy  slain  friend  at  all? 
Had  he  stolen  ring  instead  of  stabbing  friend, —  1030 

To-day,  to-morrow  or  next  century. 
Meeting  the  thief,  thy  ring  upon  his  thumb. 
Thou  justifiably  hadst  wrung  it  thence : 
So,  couldst  thou  wrench  thy  friend^s  life  back  again, 
Though  prisoned  in  the  bosom  of  his  foe.  1035 

Why,  law  would  look  complacent  on  thv  wrath. 
Our  case  is,  that  the  thing  we  lost,  we  found : 
The  honor,  we  were  robbed  of  eight  months  since^ 
Being  recoverable  at  any  day 

By  death  of  the  delinquent.     Go  thy  ways!  1040 

Ere  thou  hast  learned  law,  will  be  much  to  do, 
As  said  the  gaby  while  he  shod  the  goose. 
Nay,  if  you  urge  me,  interval  was  none ! 
From  the  inn  to  the  villa —  blank  or  else  a  bar 
Of  adverse  and  contrarious  incident  1045 

Solid  between  us  and  our  just  revenge! 
What  with  the  priest  who  flourishes  his  blade. 
The  wife  who  like  a  fury  flings  at  us, 
The  crowd  —  and  then  the  capture,  the  appeal 
To  Rome,  the  journey  there,  the  jaunting  thence  1050 

To  shelter  at  the  House  of  Convertites, 
The  visits  to  the  Villa,  and  so  forth. 
Where  was  one  minute  left  us  all  this  while 
To  put  in  execution  that  revenge 


We  planned  o^  the  instant  ? — as  it  were,  plumped  down  1055 

O^  the  spot,  some  eight  months  since,  which  round  sound  egg, 

Rome,  more  propitious  than  our  nest,  should  hatch ! 

Object  not,  <*  You  reached  Rome  on  Christmas-eve, 

And,  despite  liberty  to  act  at  once. 

Waited  a  whole  and  indecorous  week!  ^*  1060 

Hath  so  the  Molinism,  the  canker,  lords. 

Eaten  to  our  bone?    Is  no  religion  left? 

No  care  for  aught  held  holy  by  the  Church  ? 

What,  would  you  have  us  skip  and  miss  those  Feasts 

O'  the  Natal  Time,  must  we  go  prosecute  1065 

Secular  business  on  a  sacred  day? 

Should  not  the  merest  charity  expect. 

Setting  our  poor  concerns  aside  for  once. 

We  hurried  to  the  song  matutinal 

r  the  Sistine,^  and  pressed  forward  for  the  Mass  1070 

The  Cardinal  that  ^s  Camerlengo  ^  chaunts. 

Then  rushed  on  to  the  blessing  of  the  Hat 

And  Rapier,  which  the  Pope  sends  to  what  prince 

Has  done  most  detriment  to  the  Infidel — 

And  thereby  whetted  courage  if  \  were  blunt?  1075 

Meantime,  allow  we  kept  the  house  a  week. 

Suppose  not  we  were  idle  in  our  mew ! 

Picture  us  raging  here  and  raving  there  — 

"  *  Money  ? '    I  need  none.    *  Fnends  ? '    The  word  is  null. 

Restore  the  white  was  on  that  shield  of  mine  1080 

Borne  at "  .  .  .  wherever  might  be  shield  to  bear. 

'^  I  see  my  grandsire,  he  who  fought  so  well 

At  ^  .  .  .  here  find  out  and  put  in  time  and  place, 

Or  else  invent  the  fight  his  grandsire  fought : 

«I  see  this!  I  see  that!" 

(See  nothing  else,  1085 

Or  I  shall  scarce  see  Iambus  fry  in  an  hour! 
What  to  the  uncle,  as  I  bid  advance 
The  smoking  dish?    "  Fry  suits  a  tender  tooth! 
Behoves  we  care  a  little  for  our  kin  — 

You,  Sir,  —  who  care  so  much  for  cousinship  1090 

As  come  to  your  poor  loving  nephew's  feast! " 
He  has  the  reversion  of  a  long  lease  yet  — 
Land  to  bequeath!    He  loves  lamb's  fry,  I  know!) 

Here  fall  to  be  considered  those  same  six 

Qualities ;  what  Bottini  needs  must  call  1095 

So  many  aggravations  of  our  crime, 

^  Sistine  :  the  chapel  of  the  Papal  palace  in    Pope,  who  ranks  highest  among  the  cardi- 
Rome,  celebrated  for  its  wonderful  frescoes.        nals,  and  presides  during  a  vacancy  in  the 
*  Camerlengo :   the   chamberlain  of  the    Holy  See. 



Parasite-growth  upon  mere  murder^s  back. 

We  summarily  might  dispose  of  such 

By  some  off-hand  and  jaunty  fling,  some  skit  — 

^^  So,  since  there  ^s  proved  no  crime  to  aggravate,  iioo 

A  fico  for  your  aggravations,  Fisc! " 

No,  —  handle  mischief  rather,  —  play  with  spells 

Were  meant  to  raise  a  spirit,  and  lau^h  the  while 

We  show  that  did  he  rise  we  stand  his  match! 

Therefore,  first  aggravation :  we  made  up —  1 105 

Over  and  above  our  simple  murderous  selves — 

A  regular  assemblage  of  armed  men, 

Coadunatio  armatorunty — ay. 

Unluckily  it  was  the  very  juage 

That  sits  in  judgment  on  our  cause  to-day  1 1 10 

Who  passed  the  law  as  Governor  of  Rome : 

"Four  men  armed,"  —  though  for  lawful  purpose,  mark! 

Much  more  for  an  acknowledged  crime,  —  "  shall  die." 

We  five  were  armed  to  the  teeth,  meant  murder  too  ? 

Why,  that 's  the  very  point  that  saves  us,  Fisc!  11 15 

Let  me  instruct  you.    Crime  nor  done  nor  meant,  — 

You  punish  still  who  arm  and  congregate : 

For  wherefore  use  bad  means  to  a  good  end? 

Crime  being  meant  not  done,  —  you  punish  still 

The  means  to  crime,  whereon  you  haply  pounce,  1120 

Though  accident  have  baulked  them  of^effect. 

But  crime  not  only  compassed  but  complete. 

Meant  and  done  too?    Why,  since  you  have  the  end, 

Be  that  your  sole  concern,  nor  mind  those  means 

No  longer  to  the  purpose !    Murdered  we?  1125 

( —  Which,  that  our  luck  was  in  the  present  case. 

Quod  contigisse  in  prcBsenti  casu, 

Is  palpable,  manibus  paipatum  est — ) 

Make  murder  out  against  us,  nothing  else! 

Of  many  crimes  committed  with  a  view  1130 

To  one  main  crime,  Law  overlooks  the  less, 

Intent  upon  the  large.     Suppose  a  man 

Having  in  view  commission  of  a  theft, 

Climbs  the  town-wall :  't  is  for  the  theft  he  hangs. 

In  case  he  stands  convicted  of  such  theft :  1 135 

Law  remits  whipping,  due  to  who  clomb  wall 

Through  bravery  or  wantonness  alone, 

Just  to  dislodge  a  daw's  nest,  plant  a  flag. 

So  I  interpret  you  the  manly  mind 

Of  him  about  to  judge  both  you  and  me,  —  1 140 

Our  Governor,  who,  being  no  Fisc,  my  Fisc, 

Cannot  have  blundered  on  ineptitude! 

Next  aggravation,  —  that  the  arms  themselves 

Were  specially  of  such  forbidden  sort 


Through  shape  or  length  or  breadth,  as,  prompt,  Law  plucks    1145 

From  single  hand  of  solitary  man, 

Making  him  pay  the  carriage  with  his  life : 

Delatio  armarumy  arms  against  the  rule. 

Contra  farmam  constitutionis,  of 

Pope  Alexander's  blessed  memory.  11 50 

Such  are  the  poignards  with  the  double  prone, 

Horn-like,  when  times  make  bold  the  antlered  buck, 

Each  prong  of  brittle  glass — wherewith  to  stab 

And  break  off  short  and  so  let  fragment  stick 

Fast  in  the  flesh  to  baffle  surgery :  1 155 

Such  being  the  Genoese  blade  with  hooked  edge 

That  did  us  service  at  the  villa  here. 

Sedparcat  mihi  tarn  eximius  vir, 

But,  —  let  so  rare  a  personage  forgive,  — 

Fisc,  thy  objection  is  a  foppery!  11 60 

Thv  charge  runs  that  we  killed  three  innocents : 

Killed,  dost  see?    Then,  if  killed,  what  matter  how? 

By  stick  or  stone,  by  sword  or  dagger,  tool 

Long  or  tool  short,  round  or  trian^lar  — 

Poor  slain  folk  find  small  comfort  m  the  choice!  1 165 

Means  to  an  end,  means  to  an  end,  my  Fisc! 

Nature  cries  out,  "  Take  the  first  arms  you  find! " 

Furor  ministrat  arma :  ^  where 's  a  stone  ? 

C/nde  mi  lapidem^  where  darts  for  me? 

Unde  sagittasf^    But  subdue  the  bard  1 170 

And  rationalize  a  little.    Eight  months  since. 

Had  we,  or  had  we  not,  incurred  your  blame 

For  letting  'scape  unpunished  this  bad  pair? 

I  think  1  proved  that  in  last  paragraph! 

Why  did  we  so?    Because  our  courage  failed.  1 175 

Wherefore  ?    Through  lack  of  arms  to  fight  the  foe : 

We  had  no  arms  or  merely  lawful  ones. 

An  unimportant  sword  and  blunderbuss. 

Against  a  foe,  pollent  in  potency. 

The  amasiusy  and  our  vixen  of  a  wife.  1180 

Well  then,  how  culpably  do  we  gird  loin 

And  once  more  undertake  the  high  emprise. 

Unless  we  load  ourselves  this  second  time 

With  handsome  superfluity  of  arms, 

Since  better  is  "  too  much  "  than  "  not  enough,"  11 85 

And  "//«j  non vitiaty''  too  much  does  no  harm, 

Except  in  mathematics,  sages  say. 

Gather  instruction  from  the  parable! 

At  first  we  are  advised  —  "  A  lad  hath  here 

^  Furor     minutrat     arma  :       Virgil,        *  Unde  mi  lapidem  .  .  .  und9  tagiiUu  i 
**^neid/'  i.  150.  Horace,  "  Satires"  ii.  7,  ii^« 

3d8  the  ring  and  THE  BOOK. 

Seven  barley  loaves  and  two  small  fishes :  what  1 190 

Is  that  among  so  many?^^    Aptly  asked : 
But  put  that  question  twice  and,  quite  as  apt, 
The  answer  is  ^^  Fragments,  twelve  baskets  ^!  ^ 

And,  while  we  speak  of  superabundance,  fling 

We  word  by  the  way  to  fools  who  cast  their  flout  1 195 

On  Guido  —  "  Punishment  were  pardoned  him, 

But  here  the  punishment  exceeds  offence : 

He  might  be  just,  but  he  was  cruel  too! " 

Why,  grant  there  seems  a  kind  of  cruelty 

In  downright  stabbing  people  he  could  maim,  1200 

(If  so  you  stigmatize  the  stem  and  strict) 

Still,  Guido  meant  no  cruelty  —  may  plead 

Transgression  of  his  mandate,  over-zeal 

O'  the  part  of  his  companions :  all  he  craved 

Was,  they  should  fray  the  faces  of  the  folk,  1205 

Merely  disfigure,  nowise  make  them  die. 

Solummodo  fassus  est^  he  owns  no  more, 

Dedisse  mandatumy  than  that  he  desired, 

Ad  sfrisiandutfty  dicam,  that  they  hack 

And  hew,  i^  the  customary  phrase,  his  wife,  1210 

Uxorem  taniumj  and  no  harm  beside. 

If  his  instructions  then  be  misconceived. 

Nay,  disobeyed,  impute  you  blame  to  him? 

Cite  me  no  Panicollus  to  the  point, 

As  adverse!    Oh,  I  quite  expect  his  case —  1215 

How  certain  noble  youths  of  Sicily 

Having  good  reason  to  mistrust  their  wives, 

Killed  them  and  were  absolved  in  consequence ; 

While  others  who  had  gone  beyond  the  need 

By  mutilation  of  each  paramour —  1220 

As  Galba  in  the  Horatian  satire^  grieved 

—  These  were  condemned  to  the  galleys,  cast  for  guilt 

Exceeding  simple  murder  of  a  wife. 

But  why  ?    Because  of  ugliness,  and  not 

Cruelty,  in  the  said  revenge,  I  trow!  1225 

Ex  causa  abscissionis  partium ; 

Qui  nempe  idfacietUes  reputantur 

NaturcB  inimici^  man  revolts 

Against  them  as  the  natural  enemy. 

Pray,  grant  to  one  who  meant  to  slit  the  nose  1230 

And  slash  the  cheek  and  slur  the  mouth,  at  most, 

A  somewhat  more  humane  award  than  these 

Obtained,  these  natural  enemies  of  man! 

Objectum  funditus  corruit^  flat  you  fall. 

My  Fisc!     I  waste  no  kick  on  you,  but  pass.  1235 

*  Tht  Horatian  satire  :  *'  ^«Jaxt"  v.  a»  \^. 


Third  aggravation :  that  our  act  was  done — 

Not  in  the  public  street,  where  safety  lies, 

Not  in  the  bye-place,  caution  may  avoid, 

Wood,  cavern,  desert,  spots  contrived  for  crime,  — 

But  in  the  very  house,  home,  nook  and  nest,  1240 

O^  the  victims,  murdered  in  their  dwelling-place, 

In  domo  ac  habitatione  propria,, 

Where  all  presumably  is  peace  and  joy. 

The  spider,  crime,  pronounce  we  twice  a  pest 

When,  creeping;  from  congenial  cottage,  she  1245 

Taketh  hold  with  her  hands,  to  horriw 

His  household  more,  i^  the  palace  of  the  king. 

All  three  were  housed  and  safe  and  confident. 

Moreover,  the  permission  that  our  wife 

Should  have  at  length  domum  pro  carcercy  1250 

Her  own  abode  in  place  of  prison  —  whv, 

We  ourselves  granted,  by  our  other  self 

And  proxy  Paolo :  did  we  make  such  grant. 

Meaning  a  lure?  —  elude  the  vigilance 

O^  the  jailer,  lead  her  to  commodious  death,  1255 

While  we  ostensibly  relented  ? 

Just  so  did  we,  nor  otherwise,  my  Fisc! 
Is  vengeance  lawful  ?    We  demand  our  right. 
But  find  it  will  be  questioned  or  refused 
By  jailer,  turnkey,  hangdog,  —  what  know  we?  1260 

Pray,  how  is  it  we  should  conduct  ourselves? 
To  gain  our  private  right  —  break  public  peace. 
Do  you  bid  us  ?  —  trouble  order  with  our  broils  ? 
Endanger  .  .  .  shall  1  shrink  to  own  .  .  .  ourselves?  — 
Who  want  no  broken  head  nor  bloody  nose  1265 

(While  busied  slitting  noses,  breaking  heads) 
From  the  first  tipstaff  that  may  interfere! 
Nam  quicquid  sit,  for  howsoever  it  be, 
An  de  consensu  nosiro,  if  with  leave 

Or  not,  a  monasterio,  from  the  nuns,  1270 

Educta  essety  she  had  been  led  forth, 
Potuimus  id  dissimulare^  we 
May  well  have  granted  leave  in  pure  pretence, 
Ut  aditum  habere^  that  thereby 

An  entry  we  might  compass,  a  free  move  1275 

Potuissemusy  to  her  easy  death. 
Ad  earn  occidendam.    Privacy 
O'  the  hearth,  and  sanctitude  of  home,  say  you  ? 
Shall  we  give  man^s  abode  more  privilege 
Than  God's?  —  for  in  the  churches  where  He  dwells  1280 

In  quibus  assistit  Regum  Rexy  by  means 
Of  His  essence,  per  essetUianiy  ail  the  same, 


Et  nikilotninusj  therein,  in  eis^ 

Exjusta  via  delinquensy  whoso  dares 

To  take  a  liberty  on  ground  enough,  1285 

Is  pardoned,  excusatur :  that  ^s  our  case  — 

Delinquent  through  befitting  cause.    You  hold. 

To  punish  a  false  wife  in  her  own  house 

Is  graver  than,  what  happens  every  day, 

To  hale  a  debtor  from  his  hiding-place  1290 

In  church  protected  by  the  Sacrament  ? 

To  this  conclusion  have  I  brought  my  Fisc? 

Foxes  have  holes,  and  fowls  o^  the  air  their  nests ; 

Praise  you  the  impiety  that  follows,  Fisc  ? 

Shall  false  wife  yet  have  where  to  lay  her  head?  1295 

"  Contra  Fiscum  definitum  est  I "    He 's  done! 

"  Surge  et  scribe^'^  make  a  note  of  it! 

—  If  I  may  dally  with  Aquinas'  word. 

Or  in  the  death-throe  does  he  mutter  still, 

Fourth  aggravation,  that  we  changed  our  garb,  1300 

And  rusticized  ourselves  with  uncouth  hat, 

Rough  vest  and  goatskin  wrappage ;  murdered  thus 

Mutatione  vestitinty  in  disguise. 

Whereby  mere  murder  got  complexed  with  wile, 

Turned  homicidium  ex  insidiis  f    Fisc,  1 305 

How  often  must  I  round  thee  in  the  ears  — 

All  means  are  lawful  to  a  lawful  end  ? 

Concede  he  had  the  right  to  kill  his  wife : 

The  Count  indulged  in  a  travesty ;  why? 

De  ilia  ut  vindictam  sumeret,  13 10 

That  on  her  he  might  lawful  vengeance  take, 

Commodius,  with  more  ease,  et  tutius^ 

And  safelier:  wants  he  warrant  for  the  step? 

Read  to  thy  profit  how  the  Apostle  once 

For  ease  and  safety,  when  Damascus  raged,  13 15 

Was  let  down  in  a  basket  by  the  wall 

To  'scape  the  malice  of  the  governor 

(Another  sort  of  Governor  boasts  Rome !) 

—  Many  are  of  opinion,  —  covered  close. 

Concealed  with  —  what  except  that  very  cloak  1320 

He  left  behind  at  Troas  afterward  ? 

I  shall  not  add  a  syllable :  Molinists  may! 

Well,  have  we  more  to  manage?    Ay,  indeed! 

Fifth  aggravation,  that  our  wife  reposed 

Sub  potestate  judicis,  beneath  1325 

Protection  of  the  judge,  —  her  house  was  styled 

A  prison,  and  his  power  became  its  guard 

In  lieu  of  wall  and  gate  and  bolt  and  bar. 

This  is  a  tough  point,  shrewd,  redoubtable : 


Because  we  have  to  supplicate  that  judge  1330 

Shall  overlook  wrong  done  the  judgment-seat. 

NoWy  J  might  suffer  my  own  nose  be  pulled, 

As  man :  but  then  as  father  ...  if  the  Fisc 

Touched  one  hair  of  my  boy  who  held  my  hand 

In  confidence  he  could  not  come  to  harm  1335 

Crossing  the  Corso,  at  my  own  desire. 

Going  to  see  those  bodies  in  the  church  — 

What  would  you  sav  to  that,  Don  H j^acinth  ? 

This  is  the  sole  ana  single  knotty  point : 

For,  bid  Tommati  blink  his  interest,  1340 

You  laud  his  magnanimity  the  while : 

But  baulk  Tommati's  office,  —  he  talks  big ! 

•*  My  predecessors  in  the  place,  —  those  sons 

O'  the  prophets  that  may  hope  succeed  me  here,  — 

Shall  I  diminish  their  prerogative?  1345 

Count  Guido  Franceschini's  honor!  —  well, 

Has  the  Governor  of  Rome  none?" 

You  perceive, 
The  cards  are  all  against  us.    Make  a  push. 
Kick  over  table,  as  shrewd  gamesters  do! 
We,  do  you  say,  encroach  upon  the  rights,  1350 

Deny  the  omnipotence  o'  the  Judge  forsooth? 
We,  who  have  only  been  from  first  to  last 
Intending  that  his  purpose  should  prevail, 
Nay  more,  at  times,  anticipating  it 
At  risk  of  his  rebuke? 

But  wait  awhile !  1355 

Cannot  we  lump  this  with  the  sixth  and  last 
Of  the  aggravations  —  that  the  Majesty 
O'  the  Sovereign  here  received  a  wound?  to-wit, 
LcBsa  Majestasy  since  our  violence 

Was  out  of  envy  to  the  course  of  law,  1360 

In  odium  litis  f    We  cut  short  thereby 
Three  pending  suits,  promoted  by  ourselves 
r  the  main,  —  which  worsens  crime,  accedit  ad 
Exasperationem  criminis ! 

Yes,  here  the  eruptive  wrath  with  full  effect!  1365 

How,  did  not  indignation  chain  my  tongue. 

Could  I  repel  this  last,  worst  charge  of  all! 

(There  is  a  porcupine  to  barbacue ; 

Gi^  can  jug  a  rabbit  well  enough. 

With  sour-sweet  sauce  and  pine-pips ;  but,  good  Lord,      1370 

Suppose  the  devil  instigate  the  wench 

To  stew,  not  roast  him?    Stew  my  porcupine? 

312  THE  RmC  AMD  THE  BOOK. 

If  3he  does,  I  know  where  his  quills  shall  stick! 

Come,  I  must  go  myself  and  see  to  things : 

I  cannot  stay  much  longer  stewing  here.)  1375 

Our  stomach  ...  I  mean,  our  soul  is  stirred  within. 

And  we  want  words.    We  wounded  Majesty? 

Fall  under  such  a  censure,  we?  —  who  yearned 

So  much  that  Majesty  dispel  the  cloud 

And  shine  on  us  with  healing  on  her  wings,  1380 

That  we  prayed  Pope  Majestas*  very  self 

To  anticipate  a  little  the  tard^  paclc. 

Bell  us  forth  deep  the  authoritative  bay 

Should  start  the  beagles  into  sudden  yelp 

Unisonous,  —  and,  Gospel  leading  Law,  1385 

Grant  there  assemble  in  our  own  behoof 

A  Congregation,  a  particular  Court, 

A  few  picked  friends  of  quality  and  place, 

To  hear  the  several  matters  in  dispute,  — 

Causes  big,  little  and  indifferent,  1390 

Bred  of  our  marriage  like  a  mushroom-growth,  — 

All  at  once  (can  one  brush  off  such  too  soon?) 

And  so  with  laudable  despatch  decide 

Whether  we,  in  the  main  (to  sink  detail) 

Were  one  the  Pope  should  hold  fast  or  let  go.  1395 

"What,  take  the  credit  from  the  Law?"  you  ask? 

Indeed,  we  did!    Law  ducks  to  Gospel  here : 

Why  should  Law  gain  the  glory  and  pronounce 

A  judgment  shall  immortalize  the  Pope? 

Yes :  our  self-abnegating  policy  1400 

Was  Joab's  ^  —  we  would  rouse  our  David's  sloth, 

Bid  him  encamp  against  a  city,  sack 

A  place  whereto  ourselves  had  long  laid  siege, 

Lest,  taking  it  at  last,  it  take  our  name 

Nor  be  styled  InnocentinopolisJ^  1405 

But  no!    The  modesty  was  in  alarm, 

The  temperance  refused  to  interfere. 

Returned  us  our  petition  with  the  word 

^^Adjudices  suos,''''  "  Leave  him  to  his  Judge!" 

As  who  should  say  "Why  trouble  my  repose?  1410 

Why  consult  Peter  in  a  simple  case, 

Peter's  wife's  sister  in  her  fever-fit 

Might  solve  as  readily  as  the  Apostle's  self? 

Are  my  Tribunals  posed  by  aught  so  plain  ? 

Hath  not  my  Court  a  conscience?    It  is  of  age,  141 5 

Ask  it!" 

We  do  ask,  —  but,  inspire  reply 

^as  yoab's  :  see  2  Samuel  xii.  26-29.         '  Innocentt'nopolts  :  the  city  of  Innocent 

DOMimis  HYAcrirrHUs  de  archangelis.    313 

To  the  Court  thou  bidst  me  ask,  as  I  have  asked  — 

Oh  thou,  who  vigilantly  dost  attend 

To  even  the  few,  the  ineffectual  words 

Which  rise  from  this  our  low  and  mundane  sphere  1420 

Up  to  thy  region  out  of  smoke  and  noise, 

Seeking  corroboration  from  thy  nod 

Who  art  all  justice  —  which  means  mercy  too, 

In  a  low  noisy  smoky  world  like  ours 

Where  Adam^s  sin  made  peccable  his  seed!  1425 

We  venerate  the  father  of  the  flock, 

Whose  last  faint  sands  of  life,  the  frittered  gold, 

Fall  noiselesslv,  yet  all  too  fast,  o^  the  cone 

And  tapering  heap  of  those  collected  years : 

Never  have  these  been  hurried  in  their  flow,  1430 

Though  justice  fain  would  jo^  reluctant  arm, 

In  eagerness  to  take  the  forfeiture 

Of  guilty  life :  much  less  shall  mercy  sue 

In  vain  that  thou  let  innocence  survive, 

Precipitate  no  minim  of  the  mass  1435 

O'  the  all-so-precious  moments  of  thy  life, 

By  pushing  Guido  into  death  and  doom ! 

(Our  Cardinal  engages  to  go  read 

The  Pope  my  speech,  and  point  its  beauties  out. 

They  say,  the  Pope  has  one  half-hour,  in  twelve,  1440 

Of  something  like  a  moderate  return 

Of  the  intellectuals,  —  never  much  to  lose! 

If  I  adroitly  plant  this  passage  there, 

The  Fisc  will  find  himself  forestalled,  I  think. 

Though  he  stand,  beat  till  the  old  ear-drum  break!  1445 

—  Ah,  boy  of  my  own  bowels,  Hyacinth, 

Wilt  ever  catch  the  knack,  requite  the  pains 

Of  poor  papa,  become  proficient  too 

r  the  how  and  why  and  when,  the  time  to  laugh, 

The  time  to  weep,  the  time,  again,  to  pray,  1450 

And  all  the  times  prescribed  by  Holy  Writ? 

Well,  well,  we  fethers  can  but  care,  but  cast 

Our  bread  upon  the  waters!) 

In  a  word. 
These  secondary  charges  go  to  ground. 
Since  secondary,  and  superfluous,  —  motes  1455 

Quite  from  the  main  point :  we  did  all  and  some. 
Little  and  much,  adjunct  and  principal. 
Causa  honoris.     Is  there  such  a  cause 
As  the  sake  of  honor?     By  that  sole  test  try 
Our  action,  nor  demand  if  more  or  less,  1460 

Because  of  the  action^s  mode,  we  merit  bUm^ 


Or  maybe  deserve  praise !    The  Court  decides. 

Is  the  end  lawful  ?    It  allows  the  means : 

What  we  may  do,  we  may  with  safety  do, 

And  what  means  "  safety  "  we  ourselves  must  judge.  1465 

Put  case  a  person  wrongs  me  past  dispute : 

If  my  le^timate  vengeance  be  a  blow, 

Mistrustmg  my  bare  arm  can  deal  that  blow, 

I  claim  co-operation  of  a  stick ; 

Doubtful  if  stick  be  tough,  I  crave  a  sword ;  1470 

Diffident  of  ability  in  fence, 

I  fee  a  friend,  a  swordsman  to  assist : 

Take  one  —  he  may  be  coward,  fool  or  knave : 

Why  not  take  fifty  ?  —  and  if  these  exceed 

r  the  due  degree  of  drubbing,  whom  accuse  1475 

But  the  first  author  of  the  aforesaid  wrong 

Who  put  poor  me  to  such  a  world  of  pains? 

Surgery  would  have  just  excised  a  wart ; 

The  patient  made  such  pother,  struggled  so 

That  the  sharp  instrument  sliced  nose  and  all.  1480 

Taunt  us  not  that  our  friends  performed  for  pay ! 

Ourselves  had  toiled  for  simple  honoris  sake : 

But  country  clowns  want  dirt  they  comprehend, 

The  piece  of  gold !    Our  reasons,  which  suffice 

Ourselves,  be  ours  alone ;  our  piece  of  gold  1485 

Be,  to  the  rustic,  reason  he  approves! 

We  must  translate  our  motives  like  our  speech. 

Into  the  lower  phrase  that  suits  the  sense 

O'  the  limitedly  apprehensive.     Let 

Each  level  have  its  language !    Heaven  speaks  first  1490 

To  the  angel,  then  the  angel  tames  the  word 

Down  to  the  ear  of  Tobit :  ^  he,  in  turn, 

Diminishes  the  message  to  his  dog, 

And  finally  that  dog  finds  how  the  flea 

(Which  else,  importunate,  might  check  his  speed)  1495 

Shall  learn  its  hunger  must  have  holiday, 

By  application  of  his  tongue  or  paw : 

So  many  varied  sorts  of  language  here, 

Each  following  each  with  pace  to  match  the  step, 

Haud  passibus  cequis ! 

Talking  of  which  flea,  1500 

Reminds  me  I  must  put  in  special  word 
For  the  poor  humble  following,  —  the  four  friends, 
Stcartt,  our  assassins  caught  and  caged. 
Ourselves  are  safe  in  your  approval  now : 
Yet  must  we  care  for  our  companions,  plead  1505 

^  Tfiiit :  AfKjCTyphat  Book  of  Tobit,  t.  and  vi. 


The  cause  o^  the  poor,  the  friends  (of  old-world  £suth) 

Who  lie  in  tribulation  for  our  sake. 

Pauperum  Procurator  is  my  style : 

I  stand  forth  as  the  poor  man^s  advocate : 

And  when  we  treat  of  what  concerns  the  poor,  15 10 

Et  cum  agatur  de  pauperibus^ 

In  bondage,  career atis^  for  their  sake, 

In  eorum  causis^  natural  piety, 

Pietas,  ever  ought  to  win  the  day, 

Triumphare  debet ^  quia  ipsi  sunt,  1 5 1 5 

Because  those  very  paupers  constitute, 

Thesaurus  Christi,  all  the  wealth  of  Christ. 

Nevertheless  I  shall  not  hold  you  long 

With  multiplicity  of  proofs,  nor  bum 

Candle  at  noon-tide,  clarify  the  clear.  1520 

There  beams  a  case  refulgent  from  our  books  — 

Castrensis,  Butringarius,^  ever)rwhere 

I  find  it  bum  to  dissipate  the  dark. 

^  is  this :  a  husband  had  a  friend,  which  friend 

Seemed  to  him  over-friendly  with  his  wife  1 5 25 

In  thought  and  purpose,  —  I  pretend  no  more. 

To  justify  suspicion  or  dispel. 

He  bids  his  wife  make  show  of  giving  heed, 

Semblance  of  sympathy  —  propose,  in  fine, 

A  secret  meeting  in  a  private  place.  1 530 

The  friend,  enticed  thus,  finds  an  ambuscade, 

To-wit,  the  husband  posted  with  a  pack 

Of  other  frfends,  who  fall  upon  the  first 

And  beat  his  love  and  life  out  both  at  once. 

These  friends  were  brought  to  question  for  their  help ;       1535 

Law  mled  "  The  husband  being  in  the  right. 

Who  helped  him  in  the  right  can  scarce  be  wrong  " — 

opinio,  an  opinion  every  way, 

MuUum  tenenda  cordi,  heart  should  hold! 

When  the  inferiors  follow  as  befits  1540 

The  lead  o'  the  principal,  they  change  their  name, 

And,  non  dicuntur,  are  no  longer  caBed 

His  mandatories,  mandatorii. 

But  helpmates,  sed  auxiliatores ;  since 

To  that  degree  does  honoris  sake  lend  aid,  1545 

Adeo  honoris  causa  est  efficax. 

That  not  alone,  non  solum,  does  it  pour 

Itself  out,  se  diffundat,  on  mere  friends. 

We  bring  to  do  our  bidding  of  this  sort, 

In  mandatorios  simplices,  but  sucks  1550 

1  Castrensis t  Buiringarius  :   Paulus  de    should  be  spelt),  jurists  of  the  sixteenth  oen- 
Ctttro  and  Jacobus  Butrigarius  (as  the  name    tury. 


Along  with  it  in  wide  and  generous  whirl, 

Sed  etiam  assassinii  qualitaie 

Qualificatosj  people  qualified  • 

By  the  quality  of  assassination's  self. 

Dare  I  make  use  of  such  neologism,  1555 

Ut  utar  verbo. 

Haste  we  to  conclude. 
Of  the  other  points  that  favor,  leave  some  few 
For  Spreti ;  such  as  the  delinquents'  youth. 
One  of  them  falls  short,  by  some  months,  of  age 
Fit  to  be  managed  by  the  gallows ;  two  1560 

May  plead  exemption  from  our  law's  award. 
Being  foreigners,  subjects  of  the  Granduke  — 
I  spare  that  bone  to  Spreti,  and  reserve 
Myself  the  juicier  breast  of  argument  — 
Flinging  the  breast-blade  i'  the  face  o'  the  Fisc,  1565 

Who  furnished  me  the  tid-bit :  he  must  needs 
Play  off  his  privilege  and  rack  the  clowns, — 
And  they,  at  instance  of  the  rack,  confess 
All  four  unanimously  made  resolve,  — 

The  night  o'  the  murder,  in  brief  minute  snatched  1570 

Behind  the  back  of  Guido  as  he  fled,  — 
That,  since  he  had  not  kept  his  promise,  paid 
The  money  for  the  murder  on  the  spot. 
So,  reaching  home  again,  might  please  ignore 
The  pact  or  pay  them  in  improper  coin,  —  1575 

They  one  and  all  resolved,  these  hopeful  friends, 
'T  were  best  inaugurate  the  morrow's  light, 
Nature  recruited  with  her  due  repose, 
B^  killing  Guido  as  he  lay  asleep 
Pillowed  on  wallet  which  contained  their  fee.  1580 

I  thank  the  Fisc  for  knowledge  of  this  feet: 

What  fact  could  hope  to  make  more  manifest 

Their  rectitude,  Guido's  integrity? 

For  who  fails  recognize  the  touching  truth 

That  these  poor  rustics  bore  no  envy,  hate,  1585 

Malice  nor  yet  uncharitableness 

Against  the  people  they  had  put  to  death? 

In  them,  did  such  an  act  reward  itself? 

AH  done  was  to  deserve  the  simple  pay, 

Obtain  the  bread  clowns  earn  by  sweat  of  brow,  1590 

And  missing  which,  they  missed  of  everything  — 

Hence  claimed  pay,  even  at  expense  of  life 

To  their  own  lord,  so  little  warped  (admire!) 

By  prepossession,  such  the  absolute 

Instinct  of  equity  in  rustic  souls!  1595 



Whereas  our  Count,  the  cultivated  mind, 

He,  wholly  rapt  in  his  serene  regard 

Of  honor,  he  contemplating  the  sun 

Who  hardly  marks  if  taper  blink  below, — 

He,  dreammg  of  no  argument  for  death  1600 

Except  a  vengeance  worthy  noble  hearts,  — 

Dared  not  so  desecrate  the  deed,  forsooth, 

Vulgarize  vengeance,  as  defray  its  cost 

By  money  dug  from  out  the  dirty  earth. 

Irritant  mere,  in  Ovid^s  phrase,  to  ill.  1605 

What  though  he  lured  base  hinds  by  lucre^s  hope,  — 

The  only  motive  they  could  masticate, 

Milk  for  babes,  not  strong  meat  which  men  require  ? 

The  deed  done,  those  coarse  hands  were  soiled  enough. 

He  spared  them  the  pollution  of  the  pay.  1610 

So  much  for  the  allegeme